Don’t let the name fool you. Friday’s (May 29) Vancouver Island Championships offer just as much challenge for Lion’s Pride Gymnastics athletes as the provincial competition they attended earlier this year.
“It’s a competition, so I’ll be trying my best,” says Kalei Marchak, 12, whose specialties are floor exercise and vault.
She and the teammates who will compete at the Langford gym look forward to having more familiar faces among the spectators, not to mention sleeping in their own beds.
“I’m excited to have more friends and family come. Most of our competitions are a lot farther away,” Marchak says.
Anika Stephens, 10, says having a meet like this at home is important, “because we all have pride in what we do.”
Teammate Madeline Sim, at age 12, an eight-year veteran of the sport who won the overall title and was first on bars at a recent meet in Duncan, also doesn’t plan to relax for this home meet. She continues to practise new skills for next season and spends five days a week in the gym.
“I like having to learn new things and being able to teach (younger athletes),” she says.
As the only one of the six Lion’s Pride team members who can do a move on the bars called a “free hip” – the rest are working hard on achieving that skill by Friday – Sim has a leg up on her competitors.
Teammates Acacia Klak, 11, and Brooklyn Massey, 9, call the floor exercise their best event, while Hannah Iles, 9, says she does her best work on the balance beam.
The Islands are a mid-level competition for athletes between level 3 and 6, with the six Lion’s Pride athletes all at Junior Olympics 5.
Starting this season, B.C. shifted to the U.S. model of 10 competitive levels, up from four. The change, while taking some getting used to, has worked out well, says Lion’s Pride gym owner and coach Jackie Wiebe.
“For athletes it was a big jump before from level 1 to 4,” she says. “This allows for a more graduated set of achievements.”
More than 100 athletes are expected to compete Friday. The public is welcome to attend the event, which starts at 9 a.m. at 1060 Henry Eng Pl. Admission is $5 with a family rate of $12.