Yukoners outnumbered at gymnastics championships

There was an unusual configuration of athletes at the Yukon Gymnastics Championships on Saturday. In what is an extreme rarity in territorial championships for any sport, Alaskans outnumbered Yukoners at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club in Riverdale.

There was an unusual configuration of athletes at the Yukon Gymnastics Championships on Saturday.

In what is an extreme rarity in territorial championships for any sport, Alaskans outnumbered Yukoners at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club in Riverdale.

The championship welcomed 19 athletes from Juneau’s Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy, two more than from the hosting Whitehorse club.

But a bigger number of Juneau gymnasts didn’t prevent the Polarettes from collecting more hardware.

Whitehorse gymnasts won five out of six divisions and collected 11 medals to Juneau’s seven.


RELATED: See more images.


Every division had a new champion crowned this year.

“We did really well,” said Polarettes head coach Catherine O’Donovan. “It’s a little tricky for Juneau because they have to accommodate Canadian rules when we compete with them. They like our rules better because we don’t have compulsory routines, so they have a chance to be a bit more creative.”

Whitehorse’s Emily King was the only Yukoner in the younger Level 2 group, Level 2B, but beat four Juneau competitors for the top spot.

The nine-year-old was a bit astonished by her result, “because when I saw the other athletes it surprised me how good they were,” said King. “It made me a bit nervous.”

King was also the only gymnast at the championship to place first in all four events, including her favourite, the beam.

“It was the best score I got in this competition,” said King.

King was given a bonus award for all-around excellence, “because she did everything perfect on Saturday,” said O’Donovan.

Polarettes’ Fayne O’Donovan, 13, who won Level 3 the last three years, won Level 4 at the championships.

Teammates Caitlyn Venasse and Reena Coyne took second and third, respectively.

It was the first time all three competed at that level and marked the first time the championships included a Level 4 division since 2010.

“We did the Yukon championships earlier than usual because they are heading out next week at their first high-level meet: the Western (Canadian Gymnastics) Championships,” said Catherine. “So we wanted to give them some practice at Level 4.”

Saturday was Fayne’s first time competing in all four events since the Arctic Winter Games in March of 2012 because of an ankle injury.

She’s not fully recovered, “but she’s getting there,” said Catherine, who is also Fayne’s mom. “She has a nerve disorder in her ankle, so it’ll come back often.”

“I was excited, mostly because I love competing in floor. I just like performing,” said Fayne. “So it was exciting to do that again. It was also exciting that I got to compete in everything and did well in it.”

Fayne captured the top spot with first place finishes on the vault and on the floor while Coyne won on the bars and Venasse won on the beam.

Yukon’s Anisa Albisser won Level 3, up from eighth place at last year’s championship.

“She had a really solid meet,” said Catherine. “She’s my youngest Level 3 (gymnast) and she’s really come into her own this year. She’s done amazingly well inside and outside the Yukon.”

Albisser, who won bronze on the vault at the Kyle Shewfelt Festival in Calgary last month, came first on the bars on Saturday.

“She was very clean and did a very powerful bar routine with lots of height,” said Catherine.

Teammate Megan Banks placed second ahead of five Juneau gymnasts in Level 3.

Polarettes’ Jasmine Bergeron won Level 2A, taking first on the bars and floor. She was just 0.03 points up from second place’s Matisse Robertson of Whitehorse.

“Jasmine is our tiny powerhouse,” said Catherine. “This tiny, little girl has power you wouldn’t believe. It finally worked out for her. She tends to get nervous at competitions … so we spent a lot of time teaching her confidence and how to calm her nerves.”

Whitehorse’s Bianca Berko-Malvasio was tops on the vault and the beam to win Level 1A.

Teammate Anna Gishler won on bars to place second in Level 1B – the only division not won by a Yukoner.

Berko-Malvasio and Gishler are both in their first year of gymnastics.

“We had six Level 1s and I think four of them are brand new,” said Catherine. “The Level 1s handled the pressure very well.”

Fayne, Venasse and Coyne will be the only Polarettes to compete at the western Canadian championships this weekend in Winnipeg.

“I’m excited for the whole experience,” said O’Donovan. “I’m not expecting to win anything because it will only be my second time competing in Level 4. And we don’t have all the really high skills. So I’m not expecting to win, I’m more there for the experience, so hopefully next time I go I can win some medals.”

All three competed at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games, winning the Yukon a bronze in the team event. Fayne won a total of four medals at the Games, including a gold on the vault.

Last year Fayne won gold on the vault at the 2012 B.C. Artistic Gymnastics Championships and last month at a meet in Airdrie, Alta, and the Kyle Shewfelt Festival.



Level 1A

1st Bianca Berko-Malvasio (Yukon)

2nd Karmen Funderbuck (Juneau)

3rd Jeanne Lin Muller (Juneau)

4th Bridget Gehring (Juneau)

5th Alexis Benson (Yukon)

6th Monica Arsenault (Yukon)

7th Kate DeBuse (Juneau)

8th Audrey Welling (Juneau)


Level 1B

1st Sage Walker (Juneau)

2nd Anna Gishler (Yukon)

3rd Abigail Booton (Juneau)

4th Sasha Kozman (Yukon)

5th Ali Russell (Yukon)

6th Kara Strong (Juneau)

7th Ruchi Haight (Juneau)


Level 2A

1st Jasmine Bergeron (Yukon)

2nd Matisse Robertson (Yukon)

3rd Robyn Poulter (Yukon)

4th Maggie Fekete (Yukon)

5th Sydney Cairns (Yukon)

6th Madeline Handley (Juneau)


Level 2B

1st Emily King (Yukon)

2nd Sydney Strong (Juneau)

3rd Megan Lujan (Juneau)

4th Rayna Gehring (Juneau)

5th Molly Brocious (Juneau)


Level 3

1st Anisa Albisser (Yukon)

2nd Megan Banks (Yukon)

3rd Anna Whisenant (Juneau)

4th Julianna Kawakami (Juneau)

5th Lena Kawakami (Juneau)

6th Cadence Campbell (Juneau)

7th Renee Winn (Juneau)


Level 4

1st Fayne O’Donovan (Yukon)

2nd Caitlyn Venasse (Yukon)

3rd Reena Coyne (Yukon)


Contact Tom Patrick at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Most Read