A trio of North Okanagan athletes will have to get used to shining under a national spotlight.
Kiah Ward, 13, Kelsey Thompson, 17 and Victoria Podollan, 16, all earned spots on the Canadian rhythmic gymnastics team.
Ward, competing in the junior division (13-15 years), qualified for the finals and placed sixth overall. Anderson was 10th overall in senior (16 years and older), and Podollan reached the senior podium, scooping the overall bronze medal.
“Over the years our team has had some exceptional accomplishments,” said Camille Martens, head coach of Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club and a 1996 Olympian and a national team coach since 2000.
“Having had national champions and finalists over the years, top results have been something our athletes believe in and strive for. Together we’ve managed to develop a delightfully positive environment where working hard is the norm and where anything is possible. An event like this proves it. Coaching these dedicated individuals is a joy.”
All three girls receive automatic berths to the nationals later this spring and are currently awaiting assignments to represent Canada abroad.
Anderson has already been short-listed for the University Games in China this summer, and Podollan has been assigned to represent Canada at the World Cup this month in Portimao, Portugal.
The gymnasts had to go through several stages of competition to reach Elite Canada, each one more difficult than the next.
Starting with a zone level event, they advanced to provincial championships, and then went onto Western Canadians, where the top finishers qualify for nationals.
Only the very best from the nationals advance to the following year’s Elite Canada, the sport’s most prestigious competition in Canada, where they try out for spots in the national team pool. Less than 40 athletes are invited to the competition in hopes of earning a spot on the junior and senior national teams (10 athletes per team).