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Sault gymnasts beaming as they head south for U.S. nationals

Group of five from Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club will be the only Canadian entry at next month's Anaheim tournament featuring 2,000 athletes

Five female athletes — four from Sault, Ontario and one from Sault, Michigan — will be competing for the Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club at the National Gymnastics Championships to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California June 7 to 12.

“We’re the only Canadian team going,” said Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club head coach Kim O’Brien with a smile during an interview with SooToday at the club’s gym at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

The club was also the only Canadian team in last year’s national championships in New Orleans.

The five young gymnasts heading to Anaheim are:

  • Peyton O’Brien, 10, a Grade 4 student at St. Francis French Immersion Catholic School (coach O’Brien’s daughter)
  • Ivy Mooney, 10, a Grade 5 student at Grand View Public School
  • Reagan Deschamps, 11, a Grade 5 student at St. Mary’s French Immersion Catholic School
  • Daiveny Pringle, 13, a Grade 7 student at River View Public School
  • Ava Greener, 12, a Grade 7 student at Sault Area Middle School in Sault, Michigan 

“Last year three of our gymnasts qualified for New Orleans. They all did very well and Ava did so well she made the national training camp team and went to Nashville for that in October of last year,” O’Brien said.

That national training camp gives outstanding gymnasts an opportunity to participate at future competitions in the U.S.

The five gymnasts will be displaying their skills in the four main elements of female gymnastics - vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

The athletes expressed their confidence and excitement as they prepared for the National Gymnastics Championships in Anaheim during practice this week.  

“I like being on the uneven bars. I’m strong on the bars and I’m excited to be going to Anaheim,” O’Brien told SooToday.

“I like the beam. It’s a challenge but I’m good at it,” Mooney said.

“I like the uneven bars and being on the floor. I’m excited about being on the bars in Anaheim,” Deschamps said.

“I like the bars and floor the best,” Pringle said.

“Recently I really like the bars because I’ve been learning new skills on them. I like dancing on the floor as well. I’m really excited to go to Anaheim. I’m more excited than nervous because I’ve been to so many competitions and I know that the nervousness goes away (when competition begins). I always do my best. I’m looking forward to going with coach Kim because she’s very supportive. It’ll be really nice to go with her,” Pringle said.

“I got third overall in my age group last year in New Orleans. I like the beam the best. I’m pretty confident on it and I place well on it. I’m really looking forward to seeing the other gym clubs in Anaheim and how they are at competition,” Greener said.

“I think all the girls are going to fare well in Anaheim. For the younger kids I’m most interested in them trying their best and embracing the experience. Most of them have never been to anything this big. For them, I just want them to enjoy themselves, try their best and maybe come back with a personal best,” coach O’Brien said.

She added that she appreciates the help given by Sault Ste. Marie Gymnastics Club assistant coach Alexa Notte in getting the girls ready for Anaheim.  

The group of five will be among approximately 2,000 gymnasts competing in different age categories.

Athletes from South Africa and Puerto Rico will be competing against American and Canadian athletes at this year’s National Gymnastics Championships.

“It’s becoming more international and it’s really exciting for these kids to compete against kids from other countries,” O’Brien said, adding the youngsters are looking forward to viewing televised gymnastics during the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“Our goal is to get them gymnastics scholarships and that's why we choose to travel to the United States to give them the opportunity to try for that. A lot of our athletes have watched U.S. college gymnastics in Michigan and they’ve said ‘wow, I’d like to do that one day,’” O’Brien said.

Does she foresee U.S. scholarships for gymnasts in the Sault club?

“I think so. Our younger athletes look up to Ava and Daiveny a lot. They’re not that old but a three-year age gap is often big enough. Ava and Daiveny are my leaders in this group for sure. They guide and mentor the younger kids.”

The five train 16 hours a week, after school and on weekends.

“They’re very dedicated,” O’Brien said.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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