Locals gymnasts shine in historic competition
After months of cleaning, painting and renovating, Bermuda Gymnastics Association (BGA) hosted their first ever international competition at the revamped National Training Centre in St David's at the weekend.
Hundreds of spectators spilled into the Southside centre to cheer on Bermuda's 34-strong team against clubs from New York and Pennsylvania at the International Gymnastics Challenge.
Delivering a dynamic show, Bermuda's young female gymnasts vaulted, cartwheeled and somersaulted their way to victory in both the beginner and advanced categories.
The competition was the first non-US event to be sanctioned by the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC). It was also the final opportunity for Bermuda's performers to qualify for the USAIGC Nationals to be held in Fort Lauderdale in June.
A further seven gymnasts met the standard to join the five who had already qualified at the Manhattan Classic in February.
The three visiting teams were Elite of Manhattan, Gym Nation of Long Island, and Gymnastics of York of Pennsylvania.
In the beginner's Copper level, there were noteworthy displays from several gymnasts competing in their first competition.
Jezhari Talbot was the Island's top finisher as she won the all-around competition with a score of 36.30, with T'aja Williams just behind her in second. Gold medals were also awarded to Emily Gentile on the floor (9.2) and Attiyah Morris on the bars (8.95).
Also competing in Saturday's morning session were Bronze level gymnasts Logan Watson-Brown, Sasha Crumley, Chantae Wilson, Jasmine Simons and Holly Wakley.
Wilson was Bermuda's top all-around competitor, earning a silver medal with a 35.2 score. Crumley claimed gold on the floor (9.25) while Wakley won silver on beam, also with a 9.25
The afternoon session featured the higher level athletes in the Silver, Gold, and Platinum divisions.
Anah Lightbourne swept the events in the Silver level junior division, winning the all around with a 36.35. Tomei Talbot was the top finisher in the Silver senior division, scoring 35.35 points for the gold medal.
Other first place finishes in the silver group came from Kinae Dowling on vaulting (9.3) and Trinity Wilson on beam (8.5). Sadia Wilson found her way to the top of the podium on each event, winning the Gold level events and the all-around with a total of 36.35 points.
In the senior division Gold, Danielle Wall won the all-around with 34.0 points, along with vaulting and bars. In the highest level group, the Platinum division, Morgan Beckles won vaulting, beam, floor and the all-around with a 33.95. Tabytha Hofheins tied for the gold medal on floor (8.85).
Over the past two years, the previously decrepit and decaying BGA training base has undergone a major facelift 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.
BGA assistant coach, Mandi Baughman, said the successful meet was a reflection of the hard work put in by the coaches, gymnasts and parents over the past few years.
“The coaches and meet organisers could not be more pleased with how the International Gymnastics Challenge came together,” said Baughman, who served as co-meet director with Chris Nelligan.
“It is hard to express how moving it was to finally see this dream of hosting a meet in our own facility become a reality. Traditionally, our gymnasts have competed just a few times a year, and only those parents and grandparents fortunate enough to afford to travel with the team get to see the gymnasts live.
“This time, all of our gymnasts could participate and everyone in the Bermuda community could witness their talents. It reflects the BGA's mission to have all of our children, regardless of background, be able to compete in this great sport. Georgina Francoeur served as the meet chairperson and was beyond instrumental in its success.”
Head coach Duke Nelligan said the BGA intended on hosting more internationally sanctioned events in preparation for the Island Games, which will be held in Bermuda next year.
“All of our visiting teams are eager to return, and next time we'll aim to have 250 gymnasts in attendance It was also an important stepping stone on our way to hosting Island Games next summer,” he said.
“Our parents now know what it takes to run a first class event, and the local businesses who sponsored or donated to us should be glad to know they were part of something special. We'll need all of the support we can get in order to make Island Games unforgettable.”
See Page 20 for full results.