Nunavut's young gymnasts aim to compete on world stage

The gymnastics club in Rankin Inlet has challenges with flight costs, finding space and equipment to practice — but they're not giving up on making the 2019 World Gymnaestrada in Austria.

'It would be like a really big journey for me ... I really just love, love, love the sport,' says Alyson McKay

Gymnasts from the Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights) gymnastics club in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, hope to get to a few competitions, but costs are a challenge. (Submitted by Lisa Kresky)

A group of 22 gymnasts in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut have a goal — they want to go to Austria in 2019 to compete on the world stage.

"It would be like a really big journey for me. And it would be really important," said 12-year-old competitive gymnast Alyson McKay. "I really just love, love, love the sport."

But it'll take a few competitions and some hurdles to get there, said coach Lisa Kresky of the Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights) gymnastics club.

Flights are extremely expensive, says Kresky, on top of competition fees that are already high.

"A lot of our kids involved, families cannot financially afford to send them," says Kresky. "The main thing is the high, exorbitant costs of flights to get out of Rankin."

Chloe Stacey on a balance beam. She's hoping to compete in Las Vegas and B.C., leading up to the World Gymnaestrada in Austria. (Submitted by Lisa Kresky)

The team is aiming to get 22 gymnasts and three coaches to Las Vegas next month, and to Richmond, B.C. in June. The competition in B.C. will qualify the team for the 2019 World Gymnaestrada in Austria — a group performance competition for gymnasts from across the world in all age groups.

"The sport for me has made me a bit more confident going in front of a lot of people." - Maya Hidalgo

It will cost about $2,000 per person to get to Las Vegas, says Kresky. It'll cost about the same amount per person to get to B.C.

The team is also getting new gym suits, because the club has been using the same ones since 2004 when it was first created.

Training in Rankin Inlet 'difficult'

Bailey Green has tried out for the competitive team before, but didn't make it. She didn't give up, and just a few months ago, got a call with good news.

"I was really excited and I was just getting up [from bed], and I felt like really awake when my mom told me," said the 12-year-old.

Kresky said the Las Vegas competition will mark the first time some of the gymnasts, like Green, get to compete — and their first time in a fully set-up gym.

That's because the Rankin Inlet gymnastics club doesn't have its own gym, sprung (shock absorbant) floor, or a full vault.

"We try our best with the equipment we have," said Kresky.

Inuujaq Fredlund is practicing on the bar at the team's makeshift gym. (Submitted by Lisa Kresky)

The gymnasts set up and tear down their equipment in a local school gym. But because the gym is also used by other tournaments and community events, the gymnastics club has to arrange practices around available dates.

When they can't use the space, Kresky said that doesn't mean practice is cancelled.

"We're constantly kicked out of the gym, so it's definitely difficult," she said. "We go into the weight room … and just work on the hard floor, but at least we could work on dance moves."

Twenty-two gymnasts from Rankin Inlet and their three coaches hope to go to Austria in 2019 to showcase the team's performance on the world stage. (Submitted by Lisa Kresky)

Despite the challenges of being a competitive club in a remote community, Kresky said it's passion that keeps them going.

"The main thing is I love it, my coaches love it, and the kids love it and that's all that matters," she said. "That love and that passion, that's what drives us."

Eleven-year-old Maya Hidalgo agrees.

"The sport for me has made me a bit more confident going in front of a lot of people," she said, adding she is heading to the Arctic Winter Games this March.

"My coach is really awesome." 

People can contribute through the club's gofundme page, or by donating prizes for future raffles and fundraisers.

With files from Michelle Pucci

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