Victoria to Vernon quite the stretch for two gymnasts

Gymnasts Emily Bolink and Natalie Louis are headed to Vernon to compete in the B.C. Winter Games this week, Feb. 23 to 26.

Gymnasts Emily Bolink

It’s a long bus ride to Vernon, and Victoria’s athletes headed to the B.C. Winter Games are invited to stand up and stretch it out along the way.

Luckily for Natalie Louis and Emily Bolink, stretching is their kind of thing.

The pair of gymnasts, along with Coral Strugnell, will represent Greater Victoria at the B.C. Winter Games, Feb. 23 to 26.

Athletes taking the bus, however, won’t arrive until 2 a.m., late Wednesday (Feb. 22) or early Thursday, depending on how you see it.

In the words of one organizer, that means banking as much sleep as possible prior to the marathon bus ride today.

“It’s the farthest I’ve ever gone to compete,” said Louis, a 12-year-old from View Royal. “I’ve never really travelled with a whole team. It’s a pretty big deal.”

Louis trains at Lions Pride Gymnastics in Langford and is excited about getting together with all 15 Island (Zone 6) gymnast athletes. Most of all, Louis is hoping to match – and improve on – her second-place finish on the uneven bars in the tyro division (age 10 to 11) of last year’s B.C. championships.

Bolink, 13, also finished second on the bars at last year’s provincials. She competed in the novice division (age 12 to 13), which is the level Bolink and Louis will compete at in Vernon.

“Meeting new people and competing in a new place are the (biggest things) that come to mind,” said Bolink, a Central Saanich resident who trains with Falcon Artistic Gymnastics Centre in Saanich.

“Training and competing with a new coach is exciting but I’m also a bit nervous about it,” Bolink said. “Actually we both are nervous because we haven’t had the coach [one of four with the team] before.”

With gymnastics broken into a series of disciplines, athletes have a chance to win multiple medals for their team.

Uneven bars is the strength of Bolink and Louis, who will also compete in the floor exercise, the vault and the balance beam.

Each discipline gets its own medal, with an overall ranking for the athlete who has the all-around highest total score.

Zone 6 (Island-Central Coast) finished third at the 2010 B.C. Winter Games in Terrace in the gymnastics overall team standings, with Musa Niwa-Heinin and Alyssa Leblond representing Victoria.

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