ANTWERP, Belgium — Canada’s eight-member gymnastics team — four men and four women — is primed to take a run for a medal in several events while laying a strong foundation for the next Olympic Games at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 30 – Oct. 6.
The team’s best chances to qualify for an event final will come in the women’s competition with 2012 Olympic team members Ellie Black of Halifax and Victoria Moors of Cambridge, Ont., leading the Canadian charge.
To get into a final requires a top-eight finish in the qualification round with more than 140 gymnasts from 54 countries in this year’s women’s event. Getting onto the podium is an even bigger challenge. Only one Canadian female gymnast has ever won a medal at the world championships, a feat accomplished in 2006 when Toronto’s Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs won bronze on the balance beam in Aarhus, Denmark.
Black, the 2013 Canadian all around champion, has won a string of medals at World Cup and other international meets over the last year and a half and also competed in the vault final at the London Games.
Moors, the 2011 Canadian junior champion, has attracted worldwide attention in the women’s floor exercise while racking up numerous international medals, including a bronze medal in the all around at this year’s American Cup.
“Victoria knows what she wants and she’s going for it,” says Canadian women’s national team director Kyna Fletcher of Vancouver. She’s pretty pumped.”Fletcher says Moors brings “fabulous artistry and presentation” to her floor routine. “You can tell when she’s out there that she just loves what she’s doing. You can just feel it and it makes your skin tingle.”
Fletcher is also high on the other members of the women’s team including Waterdown’s Maegan Chant and Georgetown’s Kaitlyn Hofland.
“Ellie has been a fantastic addition to the team, and both Maegan and Kaitlyn bring something special to their performances. There’s a lot of diversity on this team and we’re doing everything we can to make sure they’ll be ready for the challenge.”
The rebuilding Canadian men’s team, led by veterans Kevin Lytwyn of Stoney Creek, and Ken Ikeda of Abbotsford, B.C. is focused on laying the groundwork to qualify a full squad for the 2016 Olympics.
After qualifying full teams at the 2004 and 2008 Games Canada sent only one gymnast to the 2012 Games when the team came up short at the final qualification event last winter.
Other members of this year’s team are world championship rookies Anderson Loran of Saskatoon and Scott Morgan of Vancouver.
Canadian men’s national team director Tony Smith of Calgary says the ultimate goal is to get back into the top eight in the world as a team and to develop event specialists with a legitimate chance to win a medal at a world championship.
“All four guys here have the routine content to finish top 16 in the events they’re competing and if everybody can do top 16 on their apparatus, I think that’s a great step for the future and a huge building block for the team,” said Smith.
More than 250 gymnasts from 72 countries are expected to compete in the men’s event at this year’s world championships.
The team’s best shot at placing in the top eight and qualifying for an event final are in the high bar event with both Lytwyn and Loran in the ballpark.
“Both Kevin and Anderson have high enough start values to give them a chance if they have a great routine,” said Smith.
“Kevin is looking very strong and Anderson is a pretty exciting guy on high bar. If he has a good performance, he might surprise a few people.”