PREPARATION- Members of Exelta Gymnastics practice part of a routine that will be performed in Switzerland this summer. In front from left are Chance Duda

Gymnasts to perform at showcase in Switzerland this summer

Local troupe off to the largest mass sporting event in the world

Gearing up to showcase their intricate gymnastic routines on an international stage, a troupe from Red Deer’s Exelta Gymnastics heads to Switzerland this July.

Twelve local girls will be making the journey to the World Gymnaestrada in Lausanne along with coaches Katrina Laszuk and Taryn Penrice. The Gymnaestrada is the official world event of the International Gymnastics Federation (IGF) for the Gymnastics for All discipline. During seven days, gymnasts of all ages and backgrounds including men, women, children and the disabled meet to share their passion and their talents.

“It includes nations from around the world,” explains Laszuk. The troupe will be performing in a non-competitive program specializing in gymnastics, dance, stunting and performing. “It’s free performances for the public; demonstrations of what all the different countries are working on.”

The theme for this year’s World Gymnaestrada is ‘Meet the Magic’, and the local participants are absolutely thrilled they get to be part of such a memorable event, says Laszuk. It takes place every four years and attracts an incredible 20,000 participants from across the globe.

Its mandate includes bolstering the happiness and wonder of the movement and bringing gymnasts together from all countries to contribute to the understanding and exchanges between the different nations.

The first Gymnaestrada was held in Rotterdam in the Netherlands back in 1953 and attracted 5,000 participants. Most recently, the event was hosted by Dornbirn, Austria in 2007, bringing together some 22,000 people.

Meanwhile, the local gymnasts have been prepping for the main event for more than one year. It’s a seamless, energetic blend of movements, running, flips and overall gymnastic magic set to an infectious, polished pop tune.

And not only will they be performing their own routine, they will also be joining three other Alberta gymnastics clubs in the North Alberta Medley Team.

Those scheduled to take part include Caelidh Johanson, Brittany Walliser, Cheyenne Cocke, Faedre Holt, Carol LeMaistre, Emma Hope, Summer Littlechild, Noelle Bellanger, Anna Cameron, Chance Duda, Kameryne Boyd and Jordyn Sherback.

The girls actually had to make a commitment to the trip two years ago.

“They’ve all been in this together. There have been some hard times, but they’ve all stuck together. All the girls are so supportive of each other. They push each other and they know that they can do it. When they do something new they haven’t done before, everyone is excited.”

They range in age from 10 to 16. “We’re actually a lot younger than most of the participants that are in Gymnaestrada,” says Laszuk, pointing out that the most of the participants fall in the range of 20 to 30.

Laszuk is so pleased the girls get to experience this fabulous opportunity and connect with such a diverse audience. “I’m looking forward to seeing them perform the routine more and more, because usually we work for the whole year to just perform it once at Gymfest. It’s not just all the hard work for one time, it’s all that hard work for going to Switzerland and performing it somewhere new and having people watch them.”

For Laszuk, teaching gymnastics is clearly the ideal venture. She’s passionate about every aspect of it, and garners tremendous fulfillment from seeing the progression and refinement of skill that takes place as her students apply themselves to improving.

“I like the excitement of all of it. But I think that with being a coach, I like to see the success of others. I like to see it all click together when they get a new skill and how excited they get.

“For a lot of them this is their last year, so this will kind of be the big finale to everything.”

Meanwhile, it’s easy to see the growing anticipation amongst the girls as they perfect their routines and put the finishing touches on what promises to be a lively, eye-catching performance.

“We all got Team Canada gear, so we all got track suits, shirts, tank tops and all of this stuff. When that all arrived, that’s when it really clicked that we were going to Switzerland. I think it’s now more real to them that they are representing the country. They’re not just representing Exelta Gymastics, but all of Canada,” she says.

“So they are really excited.”

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