Ontario, BC give superhuman performances to grab gymnastics gold

Dominique Pegg moved faster than a speeding bullet. She looked stronger than steel. Wearing a bright red leotard with white swooshes across the…

Dominique Pegg moved faster than a speeding bullet.

She looked stronger than steel.

Wearing a bright red leotard with white swooshes across the chest, the 13-year-old gymnast hurled her body around the top pole of the uneven bars carving graceful arcs through the air.

After building momentum, Pegg released her grip on the bar, twisting and spinning through the air before nailing her landing in the women’s singles event on Friday afternoon.

She made it look easy.

The performance earned her fifth place in the uneven bar event, but a stellar leap off the vault earlier in the day earned the young athlete a gold medal.

“Feels really good, I’m pretty proud,” said Pegg, who was wearing her bling after the competition.

At 4-7, Pegg stands more than a few inches shorter than all the other gymnasts, but her stature may be an advantage in this demanding sport.

“I just did my best and it feels really good.”

Pegg, who also grabbed gold on Thursday in the all-around competition, started gymnastics when she was two, following in the footsteps of her older brother.

“I did everything that he did,” she said with a laugh.

But then her brother quit, and she kept training hard.

Now the Ontarian has her eyes on the World Championships and the Olympics — although Pegg will be too young to compete in the 2010 games.

The Olympics has an age limit.

Gone are the days of the pre-teen girls excelling on the world stage. Competitors must be at least 16 to compete.

But the athletes aren’t retiring young either.

“There’s no age limit, not anymore,” said sport officer Grace Chiu.

“It’s not like it was in the ‘80s, when you were done when you were 18.”

German gymnast Oksana Chusovitina has enjoyed a career spanning 20 years.

She earned bronze in the 2006 Worlds at age 30, said Chiu.

While Ontario was tops on the vault, BC won medals in the other three singles events.

A blue-suited Brittany Rogers grabbed double gold in the bars and the beam.

“My parents always told me that when I was born I did a back-flip out of my mom’s stomach, so they thought I should join gymnastics,” said the 13-year-old athlete from Port Coquitlam, BC.

She now has her sights set on the World Championships and the Olympics.

“It was very exciting, I’m very happy about my accomplishments,” she said of her double-gold performance.

She had a vague idea she’d done well in her bars routine.

“The beginning was pretty iffy, but nailing the landing was just a big thrill to me,” she said.

And Rogers’ teammate Alycia Chan performed a creative tumbling routine that earned her gold in the floor competition. 

“I just wanted to try my best and go for it all, and I got what I wanted,” said the 17-year-old from Langley, BC.

She started in gymnastics 15 years ago. Her parents put her in the sport because she was “rolling all around the house.”

Chan’s golden routine had been the talk of the athletes’ village over the past few days.

In her off-time, Chan was teaching the routine to a few of the local gymnasts between meals at the kitchen.

Although Yukon’s team didn’t make it to the finals, a few of the local gymnasts were up in the stands cheering and watching the other athletes vie for their places on the podium.

“It’s really motivational — it makes me want to do so much better,” said Yukon gymnast Sierra Palamar while watching the finals from the stands on Friday.

“They’re all super good and they’re all really nice — we made friends with them.”

“It’s really inspiring; I saw a lot of skills I want to work on,” said Aletta Leitch, who was sitting beside Palamar.

Leitch placed 32nd in a field of 36 in the all-around competition on Thursday.

“I did the best I could do,” said Leitch of the tough competition.

“It was my best performance of the year by far,” added Palamar, who placed 29th.

“My favourite event was beam because I actually stayed on the beam,” she added with a laugh.