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Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Three Polarettes gymnasts, Maude Molgat, Lily Witten and Bianca Berko-Malvasio, made history on Monday afternoon.

For the first time in 20 years, the Yukon was represented at Canadian Nationals.

“It feels pretty awesome to be the first ones in over 20 years,” said Berko-Malvasio. “I remember watching older athletes when I was little and it was hard to imagine that they didn’t make it to Canada Games. But to think that I made it to their level and above is pretty cool.”

For Witten, she said the feat hadn’t hit her yet.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that we’ve done it,” said Witten. “I feel like when we are older we will look back and think ‘wow, that’s a really big accomplishment,’ but right now it doesn’t feel that big.”

Because of the pandemic, nationals did look different this year. Gymnastics Canada officials were judging the event via video.

“It’s a lot different than what a normal nationals would be like,” said Berko-Malvasio. “We’d be travelling and stuff. It’s hard for our brains to be like ‘oh we just did a super high-level competition’ when we are just in our own gym.”

Although the atmosphere was different than a non-pandemic nationals, the three gymnasts still had a small cheering section of parents and younger athletes.

Berko-Malvasio hopes her younger Polarettes teammates can be inspired to reach Nationals in the future.

“I hope that every athlete that was watching was like ‘oh I can do it too’ and I hope that they do,” said Berko-Malvasio.

The gymnasts competed in four events — bars, beam, vault and floor. As well, they will receive an all-around score combining their four routines.

The three won’t know their scores until later in the week once the other athletes from across the country have competed. Still, they discussed the routines they felt best on.

“I’m really proud of how I did on bars,” said Molgat. “In training it wasn’t going super well because I just added new skills but I think it went as well as it could have gone.”

“Floor felt like my best performance and it felt really solid,” said Witten.

For Berko-Malvasio, she was “proud of the whole thing.”

“I’m not training as much these days and haven’t been landing everything,” said Berko-Malvasio. “Just the fact I managed to pull all my routines together feels really good.”

Polarettes head coach Kimberly Jones said it’s amazing what the three athletes did.

“I’m super proud of them that they were willing to do this and then willing to do this on such a hard year,” said Jones. “It was not a normal training year.

“For these athletes to say ‘I want to go to nationals’ which no one has been brave enough to do in the last 20 years for Team Yukon in gymnastics, I think that’s huge. It speaks volumes to their commitment to themselves and the sport.”

Jones said all the athletes showed strong gymnastics.

“It’s not quite the same environment. I think that they did amazing. All of them had strengths and all of them had spots they could have done a bit better,” said Jones.

“But that’s competing and that’s learning. This is their first time competing at a national level so you can expect it’s not going to be a perfect day. It’s a learning experience in their career. I think they got what they needed from it today.”

Jones said having the gymnasts compete at Nationals “is a big feat for our whole club.”

“I think it’s great that we were able to do it in our home gym and the younger athletes could see that for the future,” said Jones. “I think all of them can.”

Contact John Tonin at