Whitehorse’s Polarettes Gymnastics Club was hoping to send a team of five athletes to compete at the Canada Winter Games next month.
Following a string of injuries, Team Yukon’s gymnastics squad is down to two.
“We’re pretty devastated,” said Polarettes and Team Yukon coach Catherine O’Donovan. “It’s not the team we were expecting to bring, but we have two girls working very hard.”
Set to represent Yukon at the Games in Prince George, B.C. are Reena Coyne and Emily King.
The team has lost some heavy-hitters, including multi-time Yukon champ Fayne O’Donovan, who has decided to retire from competition following long-time problems with nerve damage in her ankle.
“She’s had to leave the sport because of it,” said Catherine. “It was a hard decision … We kind of lost our team leader.
“We lost Megan Banks too. She’s been riddled with injuries and she’s 16 now and just wanted to focus on coaching.
“Anisa Albisser was on our Canada Games team until a week ago, but she broke her foot in practice.”
At 11 and 14 years old, King and Coyne will be some of the youngest gymnasts to compete in Prince George. King made the cutoff by only a few months and could be up against gymnasts as old as 19.
“Canada Games is national-level gymnasts and we don’t have anybody at national level. They are one level below that; they are Level 5,” said Catherine. “They qualify, but it’s going to be a hard match for them. So we’re more building the team for the future. So we’re giving them that experience and exposure to the national level.”
To prepare for the Games, King and Coyne compete at the Gym Power Invitational at Edmonton’s Capital City Gym Club over the weekend.
King competed in Level 5 tyro, a small division because so few gymnasts are at that level at such a young age.
She captured four bronze medals, taking third in vault, uneven bars, beam and all-around.
Coyne competed in the open Level 5 category, taking 10th on the vault and placing 13th all-around.
“I think the team was a little shook up,” said Catherine. “It was their first meet of the season, so I think jitters came into play a little bit.
“There were a lot of firsts. It was the first time they competed in Edmonton, it was the first time they competed Level 5, and it was their first meet of the year. So jitters were evident, but they still went out and did all the skills we were trying to do.”
A couple highlights from Edmonton include: both King and Coyne performed a tsukahara vault – a quarter turn onto the horse followed by a back flip off the horse – for their first time in competition.
Coyne also completed a fly-away full – a back flip off the bars with a complete twist – on the bars.
“In practice the girls were doing a skill I’ve been trying to get her to do and put in her routine and she’s been a little nervous about it,” said Catherine. “She watched them do it and I said, ‘Reena, you could do this move in your sleep.’ … She just got up, did it and completed it in competition and it was perfect.”
King placed first all-around in Level 3 at last year’s Yukon Gymnastics Championships while Coyne took third in Level 4.
King was on Team Yukon at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, helping win bronze in the team event for the fifth Arctic Games in a row. Coyne competed for Yukon at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games.
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