A 16-year-old gymnast will represent the Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club – and her country, no less – during the 2019 USAIGC-IAIGC World Championships in Nashville next month.
Kayla Paquin, who is known simply as ‘Paq’ by her coach and her peers, will travel to the international gymnastics competition for her fifth time since taking up the sport at the age of four.
“It feels really good,” Paquin told SooToday during her regularly scheduled practice at the John Rhodes Community Centre Monday. “I’ve worked really hard for it – every year this is my biggest competition, so I work really hard just for this meet.”
Kim O’Brien has coached Paquin for six years, and tells SooToday that during last year’s world championships, Paquin placed first in every event that she competed in, taking home first overall.
“This is her second year going as a Level 9 athlete – she is experienced and kind of knows what to expect in the calibre of gymnastics that will be there, so I expect her to fare well as long she does what she’s capable of doing,” O’Brien said.
“It just made me want to come back in the gym and work harder, and do the same thing this year,” Paquin said.
While Paquin is looking for a repeat performance this year, she’s also looking forward to visiting the Music City.
“Outside of the competition, I’m really looking forward to seeing that country lifestyle - I really like country music, so it’ll be a lot of fun,” she said.
O’Brien says the USAIGC-IAIGC World Championships keeps growing year after year, bringing in more international competition - this year, the event will include teams from Guatemala, Netherlands and India.
“They keep it more focused on keeping kids in the sport of gymnastics,” said O’Brien. “I mean, it’s a big event and it’s serious, but at the same time they know how to make it fun, and make the kids as relaxed as possible so that they’re able to perform without too much pressure.”
Paquin trains 19 hours each week at the local gymnastics club for regular season competition, focusing on eating healthy and getting her rest – all while completing high school at St. Mary’s College.
“The biggest thing is schooling,” said Paquin. “You have to manage schooling and gymnastics at the same time, because you’re coming right from school and it’s been a long day.”
O’Brien says that Paquin is like one of her daughters – ‘Paq’ is a well known name in her coach’s household, with O’Brien’s young daughters, ages two and five, serving as her cheering section at times.
O’Brien, who was herself a gymnast at the Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club before becoming a coach there, says that she’s watched Paquin evolve as a gymnast over the six years that she’s coached her.
“With the amount of time she’s put into the gym, you can see her mental focus has increased, her physical abilities have increased,” said O’Brien. “I think her love and passion for the sport keeps evolving the longer she’s been in the sport, and the more mature she gets.”
The 2019 USAIGC-IAIGC World Championships take place July 1-8 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.