They say they’re not expecting to medal, but four members of the Prince George Gymnastics Club are looking forward to seeing where they measure up against the province’s best of the best.
Kaydence Bellerive, Maija Coleman, Emery Kerr and Delaney Soares have all earned the right to represent Prince George and the Cariboo-North East region for the first time at the 2020 B.C. Winter Games, taking place in Fort St. John this February.
The quartet qualified based on their performances at the Northern Judges Cup, which was hosted by Prince George and also acted as the BC Games Trials for regional competitors.
This was also the first event of the new season for the local club members and coach Storm Garcia says because it's still early, the girls are still trying to get back into shape before the Games.
“Basically, it’s been a lot of routine prep, staying healthy, not getting sick, especially with this season with the way it is, and just staying injury-free is always number-one,” the 12th-year club coach said in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters, believing her gymnasts will gain valuable experience amongst the efforts to perform well.
“It’s a possibility [to win a medal] if they can keep their nerves under control and go and do what they need to do. We don’t expect that, but I just expect them to have lots of fun and just be happy with what they’re doing.”
B.C. Winter Games athletes are between 10 and 15 years old.
Delaney Soares, at 14, is the oldest of the four Prince George athletes headed north and said she wasn’t expecting to qualify in the first place.
Now, with a chance to show her skills to the rest of the province, Soares sees the Games as a way to develop in all areas of difficulty.
“Being on the beam is really good for me. It kind of slowed down for a bit, but now it’s starting to pick back up again. So that’s been my best event so far. [...] Floor is a tougher event because you have to do more for longer. Especially with back-tumbling, that’s something I personally have had some trouble with. So getting to the point where I can tumble consistently and properly is a place I’m still trying to get to.”
In addition to the balance beam and floor exercise, the other two disciplines are vault and uneven bars.
Each of the Prince George girls said they will play to their strengths in hopes of potentially getting to the podium in Fort St. John.
For 13-year-old Emery Kerr, she said all the hard work is paying off in her young career, relying on her passion and determination for gymnastics dating back as far as she can remember.
“I was always doing [gymnastics] at school on the field or in my backyard,” Kerr explained.
“It was just something I’ve always wanted to do and I had never tried it before, obviously, and I was doing all other sports besides gymnastics. [...] We’re just going to have to go into the meet with confidence and do what we always do.”
Kaydence Bellerive is the other 13-year-old from the northern capital set to compete in February.
She claims 2019 was a tough year mentally from not winning any competitions in her Junior Olympic Seven level (J.O. 7), but adds Coach Garcia is always there for her.
“She helps me out quite a bit. She’s kind of like a big sister to me because I’m here [at the gym] quite a bit. I get really stressed out before competitions and she kind of helps me out with that too.”
Maija Coleman says she’s thrilled to go to the B.C. Winter Games, calling it a mini-Olympics for the youngest athlete at age 10.
She expects to bring fire and energy to the team and, in addition to going to Coach Garcia for guidance, Coleman relies on family for support as well.
“My sister comes to every competition that she can come or when she wants to come,” she said.
“She doesn’t really like to be lonely that much and she also does gymnastics as well. She supports me a lot when she can because it’s not fun when I don’t have her or when she doesn’t have me.”
Garcia, now 26 years old, has two B.C. Winter Games appearances to her name and says she’ll do what she can to help her athletes perform their best, even if it is from a distance.
“I try to be their support because once they go out and compete, that’s all I can really do them,” said Garcia.
“They have to do the routines themselves, so I just try to prepare them as much as possible and keep the nerves down as much as possible.”
The B.C. Games take place Feb. 20-23 with gymnastics being held at North Peace Secondary School.
Before they head north on Highway 97, the Prince George club will compete at meets in Coquitlam (Jan. 24-26) and Langley (Feb. 14-16).