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BGA hosts first international competition

Bermuda Gymnastics Association’s (BGA) revamped National Training Centre in St David’s will host its first ever internationally recognised competition this weekend.

The junior meet will also be the first non-US event to be sanctioned by the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC), with three teams from New York and Pennsylvania set to compete.

For Bermuda’s 34-strong squad, the competition represents the last chance saloon to qualify for the USAIGC Nationals to be held in Fort Lauderdale in June. So far, only five Islanders have met the qualifying standard with a further 20 hoping to join them from this Saturday’s meet, which will be attended by the USAIGC president Paul Spadaro.

Over the past two years, the previously decrepit and decaying BGA training base has undergone a major facelift, albeit on a shoestring budget, thanks to help from the local community, schools, parents and Government funding. The latest piece of equipment installed, a $50,000 Loose Foam Pit, has enabled the Southside centre to host events for up to 1,000 athletes.

Should this weekend’s meet prove a success, BGA head coach Duke Nelligan believes the East Coast would be begin to view Bermuda as a viable place to come and regularly compete.

“It’s pretty amazing how much has happened (at the training base) in such a short space of time. I think people have bought into the idea that we can make a difference,” said Nelligan. “The work that has gone into building the facility and infrastructure is just amazing.

“We really feel that if we can run on a quality show then the entire East Coast will look at us as a place to come and compete.

“Our little ones coming through will have it so much better than the Kaisey Griffiths and Caitlyn Mellos, and all of the gymnasts that went before.”

With Bermuda hosting the Island Games next summer, Nelligan feels it’s important for his sport to host as many ‘dummy runs’ as possible in preparation for the biennial event.

And, with the USAIGC working closely with several countries to create one international platform, Nelligan sees no reason why Bermuda couldn’t become a gymnastics hub due to its halfway house location between Europe and the States.

“(This weekend’s event) could be a great jump-off for possible events in the future, it’s a test site in many way,” said the former head coach at the University of Maryland.

“The USAIGC are talking to South Africa, Germany and France trying to put together an international platform, and what better place than Bermuda, we’re right in the middle.”

“With the Island Games coming to the Island in 2013, we need to be ready to host. It’s a challenge for us to step up to the plate and be prepared.”

Attracting overseas teams to the Island would not only help boost Bermuda’s flagging tourism industry, said Nelligan, but also expose the Island’s gymnasts to a higher level of competition more regularly. The last time the BGA team tested themselves against non-Bermudians was at the IGI Chicago Style Classic last month.

“You have to keep on spurring your athletes to not accept where they are but where they could be,” said Nelligan.

“The thing with bringing other teams in, it’s a multi-pronged approach. We’re trying to stimulate our children so they realise they need to step up.

“Being the best in your little community is a wonderful thing but the reality is there’s a big world out there and it’s not going to wait for you catch up or finally invest.”

While featuring female competitors, the BGA’s boys team will be performing a demonstration during and between sessions.

The beginner and intermediate athletes will compete at 10am, and the advanced athletes at 1pm.

Admission is $10 adults, $5 children.

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Published March 28, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 28, 2012 at 9:21 am)

BGA hosts first international competition

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