Grande Prairie, Alberta
It’s suspected that some gymnastic teams enter Level 4 gymnasts into the Arctic Winter Games – a Level 3 competition.
But Yukon’s gymnasts have done the opposite.
Just three weeks ago, all four athletes representing the territory competed in the Exelta Cup in Red Deer as Level 2 gymnasts for the last time.
Moving up to Level 3 for the Games is brand new.
But being a little wet behind the ears did not stop the Yukon gymnasts from taking bronze in the team competition and finishing in the middle of the standings in the individual event.
“My team was really consistent and was able to squeak ahead of NWT to take the bronze,” said Yukon gymnastics head coach Kat O’Donovan. “They had a great meet and they were all really pumped after that competition.
“They only had three falls (in the team event) out of 16.”
With all four Yukoners being new arrivals to Level 3, hopes for podium placements were low, so the team approached the Games as a testing ground for the higher degree of competition in the future.
“We kind of knew medals were out of our reach because Alberta North and Alaska had really high Level 3s,” said O’Donovan. “This is the first time we’ve competed at this level. Three weeks ago we competed in Alberta in a level below this competition, so this was their first time trying Level 3 and they did really good. They got all their routines in and really hit their goals.
“For this meet we moved them all up to Level 3, and they’ll probably stay at that level permanently.”
Yukon’s Fayne O’Donovan produced the highest standing of her team in the individual competition, finishing in eighth place overall out of 20 competitors. She finished seventh in the vault and in her floor routine, but it was her eighth-place finish on the bars that was the most memorable.
“I had a really good bars routine because I’ve been having trouble with my handstand, but I got up on them,” said Fayne, who got a bonus point for it. “So that was exciting.”
Coming one spot behind Fayne was teammate Lilyanne Gale, who tied Fayne on the beam and on the vault – her best result of the four events. She also finished eighth on the floor.
“I think my vault was really good because I’ve never completed my (handspring) half twist before and today I did,” said Gale. “So that was really good.
“The Alaskan team and the other teams were really helpful and cheered us on.”
Teammates Mackenzie Davy and Caitlyn Vanasse were close behind in the 11th and 12th spots respectively. Davy topped out with a 7th place finish on the bars and Vanasse had her best placement on the floor, tying Davy for 10th.
“Everybody in the group had new skills they were trying,” said O’Donovan. “All of them did exactly what their goals were and everyone achieved what they were going for in this competition.”
Like many sports at the Arctic Games, competition is only half the story – making new friends is the other.
“The kids all hang out at the dorms together and tonight we’re all going to go catch a movie together,” said O’Donovan.
Contact Tom Patrick at