SLEMON PARK – It’s sure to be a weekend to remember for nine young athletes with the Summerside Saultos Gymnastics Club.
The club, along with coach Alice Ma, will compete in Gymnix 2014 in Montreal, Que., It’s the first international meet for the club’s competitive girls’ program.
“It’s our Level 2 girls who are going,” said Ma. “They are the experienced and older girls. . . It’s going to be a great experience for them.”
The Saultos will be represented by athletes Mallory Doucette, 12, of Summerside; Ashley MacDougall, 10, of Summerside; Naomi Williams, 9, of Summerside; Alyssa Mugridge, 12, of Summerside; Emmy-Mae MacLeod, 13, of Albany; Kalen McNeill, 13, of Summerside; Hannah Williams, 14, of Summerside; Kenzie Arsenault, 14, of Summerside, and Melanie Rodger, 11, of Summerside.
“I’m really excited because people at our gym have never had this chance before,” said Hannah Williams, who added this will be the biggest meet this group of Saultos has attended. “We are the first from this gym to go.”
Mugridge is looking forward to the international invitational event that features the best junior gymnasts in the world competing in a unique team competition.
“It’s going to be very big, and we get to use a lot of newer equipment,” said Mugridge. “The floors are like Olympic floors, and we’re really excited about that.”
All of the Saultos’ representatives will compete in all four events – floor, vault, beam and bars.
“They are pretty strong on all of them, and hopefully we will do very well,” said Ma. “There is a lot of competition out there, so we are just going to have fun, try our best and hopefully come back with some hardware. If not, then it’s all about fun.”
Mugridge likes the challenge of competing in all four events.
“I’m really excited about competing in every event because they are all very different,” said Mugridge. “They take a great amount of strength for each one, and you have to be consistent in each event.”
Ma is familiar with Gymnix as she participated in the event as a national open athlete.
“It was a great experience back then,” added Ma. “I loved every minute of it.”
What is the biggest thing from her experience as an athlete at Gymnix that the coach will pass along to the Saultos?
“Definitely the technique, and see how clean the gymnasts are,” answered Ma. “Gymnastics is kind of a perfectionist sport.”
While the athletes will gain valuable experience, Ma is also looking forward to monitoring and learning from some of the best coaches in the world.
“You will see Olympian coaches there from all over the world,” she said. “Seeing all them is amazing, and how they work with their athletes.”
Gymnix 2014 features athletes from Canada, Russia, Japan, United States and China. A number of Olympians, and future Olympians, will also be competing. Ma said the opportunity to watch these athletes will be one of the highlights for the Saultos.
“They usually compete Friday and Sunday night, and that’s going to be amazing for them,” said Ma. “I remember going to that specific competition and meeting Carly Patterson, who is an Olympic champion now.”
A growing sport
Gymnastics soaring in popularity
By Jason Simmonds
SLEMON PARK – The sport of gymnastics in the Summerside area is soaring in popularity.
The Summerside Saultos Gymnastics Club is a big reason for that.
The club, which has been based out of the Canada Games Sports Centre in Slemon Park for the last three years, is in its 32nd year of operation.
It’s a proud weekend for the Saultos as nine girls aged nine-to-14-years-old in the competitive program will wear the club’s colours at Gymnix 2014 in Montreal. This is an invitational international event that attracts gymnasts from all over the world.
“We come from such a small club, and now we are expanding so much,” said Saultos coach Alice Ma. “We have about 300 kids in our programs now, and to get invited to an international competition is amazing.”
The Saultos club was established in 1982, and at one time had more than 200 members. With the Saultos then based at Greenfield Elementary, space became an issue, the competitive program was dropped and the club had only 40 members back in 2009.
The club’s growth, however, coincided with its move to Slemon Park.
“When we started three years ago (in Slemon Park), it was kind of a recreational gym,” explained Ma. “We expanded to boys’ competitive and girls’ competitive (programs).
“At the start I only had about a handful of competitive kids. Now we are up to about 40, 45 competitive kids.
“In our recreational program, we only offered a few programs. At first, we only had about 150, last year we had about 250 and now we are at 300.
“We are aiming at 400 and 500 kids for the next couple of years.”