Anna Gishler practices vaulting at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on Nov. 9, 2017. The club will soon have a lot of new equipment thanks to funding from the Yukon goverment’s community development fund. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Polarettes set to debut new equipment at Midnight Sun Invitational

‘We’ve really never had an opportunity to compete on home soil before with other clubs’

The Polarettes Gymnastics Club is gearing up to host the first-ever Midnight Sun Gymnastics Invitational from June 21 to 24, and thanks to funding from the Yukon government and Lotteries Yukon, the club will also be breaking in some new equipment.

The territorial government announced in a press release on June 6 that the club will receive more than $82,000 through the community development fund to replace and upgrade old, worn-out equipment.

Kimberly Jones, head coach for the Polarettes, said a lot of the equipment covered by the grants is at or near the end of its lifespan.

“We’re replacing everything in the gym that has been in the gym for more than 15 years,” said Jones. “The whole layout of the gym is actually going to change.”

Among the upgrades are a new floor exercise area, new beams, new bars, a new vault system, new recreational equipment and fixes for the foam pit.

Best of all for the club, the new equipment shipped on June 7 and will be here in time for the invitational.

“It’s going to get setup at the Whitehorse Curling Club where our event is now being hosted and then it is going to get transferred over to the Polarettes facility,” said Jones.

That swap is expected to happen on June 24, and the club will be closed for a week as the facility is reorganized.

While the Polarettes have hosted major events in the past in conjunction with Sport Yukon, like Western Canadian Championships and Canada Games, the Midnight Sun Gymnastics Invitational is the first time the club has taken on an invitational.

“The idea actually was a long-time idea from the old head coach, Cat O’Donovan, and it just kind of never came about,” said Jones, explaining that timing was always difficult to work out.

“This year we prioritized it and decided this was the year we were really going to put ourselves out there and try to host an event like this.”

There certainly seems to be a market for it. In the two years since Jones has been with the Polarettes, she said the competitive program has expanded from 17 athletes to a current total of 46.

“We’re growing at a rapid pace,” said Jones. “We’re got a lot of kids that are really interested in becoming involved with the program.”

This year, 10 teams and approximately 130 athletes will travel to Whitehorse for the meet. Joining the Yukoners will be teams from Alaska, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

“We’ve really never had an opportunity to compete on home soil before with other clubs, so this will be a really nice opportunity for the kids.”

Also making the trip are two-time Olympians Brittany Rogers and Kate Richardson, and Canadian national team gymnast Kevin Lytwyn, who will be leading clinics and camp sessions for local gymnasts.

Although the event is still weeks away, Jones said talk has already started about holding another invitational in the future.

“We’re talking about doing that again because this year seems to be a pretty big success already,” said Jones. “So we’re talking about that for the future.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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