In the world of competitive gymnastics, as is the case with a number of the other elite winter sports in the area, provincial championships provide a fitting cap to the build-up of hours and hours of training for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Sudbury-based athletes.
The Women's Artistic Gymnastics crew at the GymZone - Home of the Sudbury Laurels – are no different.
The anticipation of challenging yourself against a peer group from all corners of Ontario can build the excitement to a feverish pitch, not to mention the accompanying stress and anxiety. Of course, garnering some experience along the way certainly helps keep things in check.
“I feel a lot less nervous, a lot more confident going into it this year, because I've done it before,” noted 13 year old Level 6 gymnast Madysen Mulligan. There is also a comfort level that comes from that simple feeling of mastering the task that you are about to perform, or, at the very least, mastering it to a level that athletes are secure in unveiling to the discerning eyes of the judges.
“I'm excited for the floor because I have a new routine this year, and it's been one of my best scoring scoring events so far,” added Mulligan. “My dance has changed, so it's a lot better. I like it a lot more. I like the quick movements.”
A grade 8 student at École Félix-Ricard, making her second appearance at provincials, Mulligan has patterned herself after gymnasts who possess a similar core set of athletic strengths. “There are some Olympians that I look up to and they are more powerful than graceful,” she said.
“Sometimes it's better to be powerful and sometimes it's better to be graceful.”
A couple of years younger in age and in grade 6 at St James Catholic Elementary School in Lively, Marin O'Malley is making her first appearance at provincials, overcoming a handful of key challenges that skewered her chances one year ago.
“At my third qualifier, I didn't have bronchitis this year, so that helped,” she said, alluding to an illness that zapped much of her strength in March of 2018. “My fear issues have also gotten a lot better, so that helped too.”
Throw in a few tweaks in both her routines and the framework in which the gymnast can compete, and O'Malley is ready and raring to go. “I really like vault this year because they added a thing where instead of doing a front hand-spring, you can actually do a suk (tsukahara) timer. I just kind of tried it and it was a little bit easier.”
It certainly doesn't hurt that O'Malley will enter the event on something of a roll. “My third qualifier was definitely my best one, because I almost got a 37 overall, which I have never done before,” she said. “My beam was really good. My flexibility is bad, so that surprised me, but my split jump was much better than most times.”
“The two things that are hardest to stick (with my beam routine) are my connection and my full turn. When I stuck those at third qualifier, I thought I might actually stick the whole routine. Personally, I like doing the harder things first, because then you get them over with. If it doesn't go well, you just kind of forget about it and try and make sure that the easy stuff is amazing.”
With all of this in mind, O'Malley is anxious to take the next step coming out of Provincials 2019. “I am trying to go for Level 7 next year,” she said. “Julie (McEwen - coach) really wants me to go for Level 7.”