Polarettes struggle with American code of points

The Polarettes' first competition under American rules and scoring was a learning experience. That was the point of going stateside.

The Polarettes’ first competition under American rules and scoring was a learning experience.

That was the point of going stateside.

The Whitehorse gymnastics club sent a team of eight to the 2014 Charity Choice Invitational in Tacoma, Wash., over the weekend.

It was an opportunity for the Polarettes to compete under the American code of points in the lead up to the Arctic Winter Games next month in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“This was a first for us and it was a very steep learning curve and learning experience,” said Polarettes head coach Catherine O’Donovan. “When we go to Juneau, we compete under Canadian rules because they like our rules.”

It was the Polarettes’ first competition in the contiguous U.S. and they were the only Canadian team there. Of the eight Whitehorse gymnasts in Tacoma, four will compete at the upcoming Arctic Games.

“The reason why we had selected this meet was we wanted to practise U.S. rules because when we go to Fairbanks, Alaska, this year, they are doing it based on U.S. gymnastic rules, opposed to the Arctic Winter Games rules that we had used in the past,” said O’Donovan. “So we needed to give that a whirl and figure out what we need to change, and that’s what we got out of it.

“Our routines were too high difficulty. We have a lot of skills that are ranked higher than the girls were doing and they got penalized for that.

“Where in Canada, if you do a harder skill, they devalue it to the lower level. They don’t penalize you for it.”

The Canadian system uses five levels, each with four age categories. The Americans use 10 levels, each with three age categories.

As a result, all eight Polarettes were separated into different categories.

Whitehorse’s Megan Banks came the closest to a medal in Tacoma. Banks, who will compete at the Arctic Games, placed fourth on the beam, fifth on the bars, for fourth all-around in Level 7 senior A.

“There were two routines that got especially clobbered for that,” said O’Donovan. “Megan Banks, she had the best results out of everybody, but on floor – she had the best routine out of everybody, probably the best routine I’ve ever seen her do – but she was penalized because her leaps and jumps were quite high level. In Canada you can do any level of difficulty leap – they want to encourage those harder leaps.

“She had an excellent floor routine with a really poor score.”

Sydney Cairns – another upcoming Games athlete – placed seventh on the bars, beam and all-around in Level 7 junior B.

Emily King, the youngest on the Games team, came 10th all-around with ninth on the bars in Level 7 child A.

Games teammate Anisa Albisser took 10th on the bars en route to 12th all-around in Level 7 junior A.

“Overall, our team did really good routines,” said O’Donovan. “When you look at our routines, they executed them really well. The biggest issue was the differences in the Canada-U.S. rules.”

Other Polarettes results include Cailtyn Venasse taking fifth on the vault and eighth all-around in Level 8 senior A; Fayne O’Donovan sixth on the vault and eighth all-around in Level 8 junior B; Reena Coyne eighth on the vault and ninth all-around in Level 8 junior A; and Maggie Fekete ninth on the bars and 13th all-around in Level 6 junior A.

“We also chose it because it was a charity invitational in which each team chooses a charity to compete on behalf of,” said Catherine. “The top five teams are awarded money up to $12,000 to a charity, which we were quite drawn to.

“We chose to compete for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation because my younger daughter is a diabetic … and one of our athletes’ sisters is diabetic as well.”

Contact Tom Patrick at