Looking back on a banner year for Canadian gymnastics

It’s hard to compete for attention in an Olympic year, but Canadian gymnasts in all disciplines had much to boast about in 2012 in addition to the remarkable performances of Rosie Maclennan and the women’s artistic gymnastics team at the London Games.

Much of last year saw Canada’s top athletes in artistic, rhythmic and trampoline gymnastics battling hard to qualify for the Games.

Along the way were many ups and downs and more than a few tense moments at qualification meets at home and abroad.

Ultimately, Canada qualified gymnasts in all disciplines, including a full team in women’s artistic gymnasts and the first-ever Olympic rhythmic gymnastics team in the group event. 

Rosie MacLennan came into the 2012 Olympics as one of trampoline’s rising young stars and, in the signature event for the entire Canadian Olympic team in London, performed the best routine of her life in front of 20,000 people to win Canada’s only gold medal of the Games. 

Rosie’s long-time teammate Karen Cockburn appeared to be on course for a record fourth consecutive Olympic medal but just missed the podium and had to settle for fourth place.

In the men’s trampoline competition 2008 silver medallist Jason Burnett fell on his first skill in the final and didn’t get the chance to perform one of the most difficult routines in the field.

Nothing, however, could dampen the enthusiasm generated by Rosie’s gold medal and a best-ever finish at the Olympics by the women’s artistic gymnastics team just days before the trampolinists bounced into the spotlight.

After placing eighth in the qualifying round, the Canadian women upped their performance another notch to place fifth in the final, the best ever result for Canada at the Games in either men’s or women’s team competition. 

Every member of the team played an important role in re-writing the Canadian record book, from world championship veterans Kristina Vaculik, Brittany Rogers and Dominique Pegg, to bright young stars Ellie Black and Victoria Moors. 

Adding another sprinkle of stardust to a magical Game for the women’s team, Pegg qualified for the all around final placing 17th while Rogers and Black both advanced to the vault final, something only a handful of Canadian gymnasts have ever accomplished at the Olympics.

In the vault final Black was injured and had to withdraw but Rogers capped her international career with a 7th place finish, Canada’s best ever result in women’s individual competition at the Olympics excluding the boycotted 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

In men’s artistic gymnastics, Nathan Gafuik, the lone Canadian to qualify for the Games, battled to overcome the effects of a serious hand injury sustained earlier in the summer, but finished well back on men’s high bar, the only event he contested in the qualifying round.

In rhythmic gymnastics the Canadian team bounced back after a shaky first day to place 11th in a strong finish on the second and final day of competition in the group event.

Members of the team were Rose Cossar, Anjelika Reznik, Anastasiya Muntyanu, Alexandra Landry, Kelsey Titmarsh and Katrina Cameron. 

When the Games came to an end in August, it was time for a new generation of Canadian gymnasts to start looking ahead to the next Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While most Olympic team members took a break from competition this past fall, 2016 hopefuls like Heaven Latimer of Burford, Ont., and Shallon Olsen of Vancouver were dazzling spectators and judges alike at artistic gymnastics competitions in France and Belgium.

Latimer, who recently moved up to the national junior women’s team, led the Canadian team to the gold medal and picked up three individual medals in Combs-La-Ville, France in November and went on to win another individual silver medal with a sparkling floor routine a week later at Gym Massillia in Marseille, France. 

At the Top Gym meet in Charleroi, Belgium in late November, 12-year-old rising stars Shallon Olsen of Vancouver and Rose-Kaying Woo of Montreal stole the show in a top caliber field.

Olsen, the 2012 Canadian junior champion, and Woo finished 1-2 in the all around competition and both went on to win gold in the individual event finals on floor and uneven bars respectively.

At a star-studded World Cup meet in Stuttgart Germany at the end of November Scott Morgan of Vancouver led the men’s rebuilding artistic gymnastics team to a strong overall showing. Other members of the team were Anderson Loran of Saskatoon, and Joshua Stuart and Robert Watson, both of Vancouver.

While Canada’s younger gymnasts were taking their first steps towards the next Olympics, many veteran national team members were starting or continuing new chapters in their careers on gymnastics scholarships in the United States. Among those now with NCAA teams are Peng Peng Lee at UCLA, Brittany Rogers at the University of Georgia, Kristina Vaculik at Stanford University and Jessica Savona at Louisiana State University.

With all three members of Canada’s Olympic trampoline team not competing at the 2012 Pan Am championships in Queretaro, Mexico at the end of November, the door was wide open for other members of the national team to step up and keep Canada on top in the Americas.

The Canadian team, blending youth and experience, rose to the challenge, winning a total of 12 medals, including all four individual titles for men and women in trampoline and double mini trampoline. 

Samantha Sendel and Samantha Smith, both of Toronto, finished 1-2 in women’s trampoline while Kyle Soehn of Red Deer, Alta., took the men’s title.

Canada’s double mini team led by veterans Denis Vachon of Burlington, Ont., andCorissa Boychuk of Airdrie, Alta., was unbeatable, winning both the men’s and women’s team and individual titles.

Canada’s growing depth in trampoline gymnastics was also on display at the Indo Pacific Championships in October.

Over four days of competition the Canadian team racked up a total of 17 medals in various age groups including individual, synchro and double mini trampoline events and tumbling.

Canada’s top performer was Keevin Madigan of Toronto who showed his versatility en route to gold medals in both individual trampoline and double mini in the men’s 15-16 age group.

Canada's up and coming rhythmic gymnasts were also in the spotlight in September at the Pan American Junior Championships in Cordoba, Argentina.

Patricia Bezzoubenko of Toronto led the Canadian team to a silver medal and also won the all around title and either gold or silver in all four event finals.

Carmen Whelan of Newmarket, Ont., added a bronze medal in the ball final and Canada also came away with another bronze medal in the group competition to cap an impressive overall performance.

Competing in the group event were Sarah Hui, Teija Korjus-Parker, Alyssa Klyushin, Nicola Knowles, Emma Lozhkin and Michelle Qin, all of Toronto.

Closing out the year on a high note, Canadian artistic gymnasts led by Sabrina Gill of Oakville, Ont., earned four medals in December at the Toyota Cup in Japan.

As the new season moves into high gear in 2013, Canadian gymnasts in all disciplines will barely miss a beat as all efforts now shift to the next Olympic Games in 2016.