Nelligan calls for mental strength
Duke Nelligan, the Bermuda gymnastics head coach, has backed his team to hold their own against tough competition at this month's NatWest Island Games.
Bermuda's gymnasts shined at the previous Games held on home soil two years ago, winning a handful of medals and Nelligan believes the team are capable of success in Ynys Môn, where the event will be held.
Representing Bermuda will be 17-year-old Warwick Academy pair Tabytha Hofheins and Gabby Vincent, who won bronze medals two years, as well as Gianna Webbe of Warwick Academy, Sydney Mason and Danielle Wall of Bermuda High School, and Zantae Dill of Saltus.
Sadia Wilson, who captured two gold medals in 2013, will not be competing at the Games, with the 14-year-old now based in England, where she trains as a junior elite gymnast at the Notts Gymnastics Academy.
“Our group for the Island Games will be fairly seasoned,” said Nelligan, a former University of Maryland coach. “I think we'll match up pretty well with everybody, but it all depends on how mentally strong our girls are.
“It really depends on what teams the Isle of Man and Jersey send; those guys can be very formidable competitors. When they were here in 2013, they sent a very seasoned squad, with girls that had tried to make it onto the Great Britain team. If they send that same squad again, we're going to have our work cut out for us.”
Since taking over as head coach six years ago, Nelligan has completely revamped the programme, with the elite training facility in Southside holding international competitions, as well as launching a competitive boys' programme that will send a team to the Games for the first team.
“This being our first time with young boys, it will be interesting to see how they handle themselves,” Nelligan said. “I believe at this point that Taj [Lowery] has a very strong set of routines, and Max [Blakeney] is another one that has talent.
“Niyan [Outerbridge] and Jaden [Malpas] will have their opportunity as well to get their feet wet in international competition.
“Any one of these boys could have a great day.”
Bermuda's boy's programme looks like it will blossom as the sport gains popularity on the Island.
“The real problem here in Bermuda is getting young boys to realise that gymnastics is a great opportunity for them to show their abilities,” Nelligan said. “It's unlike any other sports in that when you compete, you walk out on the floor by yourself. There's no team-mates, you've got no defence behind you, you don't have a support group of athletes that fill in to help bolster your talent. So for one individual to step out there, you've got to be pretty self-assured.”
The Bermuda Gymnastics Association will send Sydney Mason to Toronto for the Pan Am Games, and a team of Bailey Boyd, Ella Tear, and Holly Wakely to the World Championships in California next week.
The Island Games will run from June 27 to July 3.