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  • Julie Spackman

The Highs Of Arctic Gymnastics

Like the Arctic tundra in the summertime, the padded gymnastics floor cushioned each step, hop, and tumble of the gymnasts for the final round of competition on Wednesday morning.

Gazing around the event center, a novice viewer might not know where to focus their attention.

Rings dangle from the ceiling. Open foam pits reveal safety practices for aerial moves. Four heights of balance beams are parallel from shortest to tallest. The final gymnastics competition on Wednesday included four events: vault, floor, balance beam, and uneven bars.

Two of the four competition events took place simultaneously, with events alternating back and forth. The Master of Ceremonies read off the names of the athletes prior to their event. Vaulting unfolds at the same time as uneven bars, and the floor routines go on at the same time as the balance beam routines.

Artistry and athleticism become one in gymnastics. The same athlete who grimaces and sprints as fast as she can toward the vault, aiming for ultimate speed and height off the table, is also required to exhibit an artistic flair with grace and poise on the floor or balance beam. Straight legs, pointed toes, strength, balance, and personal grit are demonstrated in each event.

Something as mundane as teetering on the balance beam was reborn. The girls on the Northwest Territories team added grace with a press-up at the mid-beam, with their legs extended in midair splits, and then raised above their torso and balance beam in a handstand. Every dismount from an event was clear. Whenever athletes achieved a strong performance, their teammates raced to them with hugs and congratulations. Competitors must also learn to navigate the bumbles, like taking a step after trying to make a perfect landing – a goal for every event. Athletes on all four teams demonstrated remarkable poise and focus, powering past small mistakes to achieve a powerful finish.

Each athlete received hoots and personal shouts of encouragement by name from athletes from each of the four competing teams. Ainslie Coburn from the Alberta North team said, “Hearing the cheers from the other athletes really makes you feel supported!”. Coburn’s favorite event to do is the uneven bars, which must be adjusted for each athlete according to their height. “Bars can be scary, but it’s very fun and I like to learn new skills.”, she said.

The Alberta North team took gold on Wednesday. Most of the team members are veterans to gymnastics, with some starting the sport as young as five years old. Lola Martin and Maeva Layag-Turbide’s favorite event is the floor. Both girls love to show off their dance moves and learn new skills. When asked how the Arctic Winter Games might be different than other competitions in which she has participated, Katelyn Siebert told the Ulu News on Wednesday “It's an awesome opportunity, representing our province and competing against other top athletes who are selected for the games.” Ainslie Coburn stuck the landing with her final comment, “All the other teams did super good and should be proud of their performance!”


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