Olympic hopefuls start week-long competition

GYMCANrgbThree area gymnasts will be looking to make a statement at this year’s Canadian gymnastics championships which begin this weekend in Ottawa. Over 600 gymnasts competing in the three Olympic disciplines of artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline will be vying for national titles in various age groups during the competition which concludes on May 25.

In women’s artistic gymnastics all eyes will be on returning 2012 Olympians Ellie Black of Halifax, Victoria Moors of Cambridge, Ont., as they go up against a strong field of first year seniors including Maegan Chant of Waterdown, Jordyn Pedersen of Mississauga, Ont., and Briannah Tsang of Vancouver.

Black, a surprise addition to the Olympic team, has been on a tear since the start of the year, winning the all around Elite Canada title in February and four medals at two World Cup meets in April.

The junior women’s competition also promises to be one of the highlights of this year’s event with a number of talented gymnasts who have already established themselves as contenders for the 2016 Olympic team, including 2012 all around champion Shallon Olsen of Coquitlam, B.C., Aleeza Yu of Richmond, Hill, Ont., and Rose-Kaying Woo of La Prairie, Que.

The Canadian men’s senior gymnastics team is in a rebuilding year with many younger competitors looking to earn a spot at the world championships this fall, including Anderson Loran of Saskatoon, Joshua Stuart of Richmond, B.C., Mathieu Csukassy of Montreal and Scott Morgan of Vancouver.

This year’s women’s trampoline competition is expected to be wide open with Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan unlikely to compete because of an ankle injury and perennial Canadian champion Karen Cockburn taking time off to have a baby.

Ready to take up the slack in the senior competition are Samantha Sendel and Samantha Smith, both of Toronto, while 2012 junior champion Lexi Geisbrecht of Calgary is aiming for a second straight title.

On the men’s side, two-time Olympian Jason Burnett of Toronto dominated the recent Elite Canada meet and will be looking for his seventh Canadian title.

In rhythmic gymnastics 2012 Canadian junior champion Patricia Bezzoubenko of Toronto is well on her way to winning her first Canadian senior title.

Rounding out the 2013 championships are the crowd-pleasing tumbling and double mini trampoline events.

Veteran Emily Smith of Burlington, leads the way in women’s tumbling while Jon Schwaiger, also from Burlington, and Vincent Lavoie of Drummondville, Que., are the top two contenders on the men’s side.

In double mini trampoline defending champion Keegan Soehn of Red Deer, Alta., and Denis Vachon are the front runners in the men’s senior competition, while 2010 world champion Corissa Boychuk of Airdrie, Alta., will be looking to reclaim her national title on the women’s side.

“We’re expecting to see some great performances from a lot of our younger gymnasts,” says Gymnastics Canada President Jean-Paul Caron of Ottawa.

“We have high expectations that many of them will go on to not only compete at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro three years from now but also to challenge for medals in every discipline.”

The competition will be held at Carleton University.