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Teenage gymnasts excited to represent island

Blakeney is in Bermuda’s Island Games gymnastics team

Competing in the NatWest Island Games in Gotland, Sweden could be the opportunity of their young lives for five Bermudian gymnasts.

Max Blakeney, 13, Chantae Wilson, 13, Anna Francoeur, 14, Taj Lowery, 14, and Gianna Webbe, 15 will represent the island in Gotland. The five athletes — who have all met the qualifying standard for the Games — were selected at the trials held by the Bermuda Gymnastics Association last month.

Making it to the Island Games represents the culmination of a long season’s work.

“They are very excited. This was the season’s goal for all of our gymnasts, to reach the qualifying standards so that they could take part in the Games,” BGA head coach Adriana Forde said.

The Island Games will be the first international tournament that these young gymnasts have ever competed in, and so the athletes are experiencing a range of emotions.

“For sure there are some nerves; I think they are a result of them being excited about competing in the Island Games,” Forde added. “I know that all competitors get anxious, and hopefully that can drive them to do their best.”

These Games in Sweden could have actually been the second international tournament for some of these gymnasts, as they had qualified for the 2015 NatWest Island Games. However, Jersey, the host nation of the 2015 Games exercised their prerogative to select which sports would be contested at the games and gymnastics was one of the sports that was not selected.

After the disappointment of not being able to compete in the Games in Jersey, Bermuda’s gymnasts will be jumping at the chance to test themselves on the big stage for the first time in Sweden. Forde would obviously be pleased to see her athletes win tons of medals at the Games, but she also wants them to enjoy themselves and to appreciate the magnitude of their achievement.

“I want them to embrace the Games. I want them to take the time to get to know the other athletes and to discover the culture of Sweden. I want them to appreciate all of the hard work and dedication that has gotten them there,” she said.

That hard work and dedication has included specific training to help them reach the required standards for the game and also performing in front of judges that have been flown in from overseas.

“Preparations are going well. We have gotten outside help from judges from abroad and our gymnasts are taking their advice and adopting it to their routines. We want our athletes to strive for excellence,” Forde said.

Forde believes that competing in the Games, is an excellent opportunity for her young gymnasts. And since gymnastics is one sport that has a particularly short shelf life, it is important that her athletes take these opportunities as soon as possible.

“The Island Games can be a great pathway to other international tournaments such as the Pan Am Games, and it can even inspire our athletes to pursue college gymnastics,” she said.