By Chad Ouellette
A collection of Ottawa gymnasts will compete for Team Ontario at the Canadian and Eastern Canadian championships for gymnastics after putting in qualifying-worthy performances this season.
Rideau Gymnastics’ Nathaneal Teng punched his ticket to the national championships by placing 2nd in the men’s open category at the provincial championships in Amhertsberg in April.
“It feels really good,” Teng said, who will compete at the national level for the second year in a row.
Teng’s been doing gymnastics for 11 years, which he says is partly to credit for his success this season.
“I got into the sport because when I was younger, my parents were looking for something for me to do,” he explains. “There was a gymnastics place near us, about a five-minute drive, it was close and convenient, and they enrolled me. The coach there saw that I could maybe have some potential and he asked me to try for the competitive team and that’s where it began.”
His coach, Feng Zha, is also owed credit for Teng’s success, the athlete says. Teng only began training with Zha recently. Zha is originally from China but has more than 10 years of coaching experience that has spanned countries including Qatar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, according to Rideau’s website.
“I’m thankful that I’m paired up with the coach I have now,” Teng explains. “It’s been really good so far. I’ve competed the best I’ve competed in a long time. It feels great.”
The gymnast says he and Zha will spend between now and the national championships working on new skills and trying to improve the difficulty of his routines so that his scores can be as high as possible. The Canadian Championships in Artistic Gymnastics will be held at Carleton University from May 21 to May 26.
Teng will be joined by Rideau teammates Aidan Li, competing in the junior level, and Jaiman Lawrence, competing in the senior level, at nationals. Ottawa Gymnastics Centre (OGC) product Sam Zakutney will also compete in the senior division.
OGC’s James Doucette, Tyson Morton, Toby Kagume and Riley Gonzalez, and Rideau’s Alexandre Dery are all expected to compete at the Eastern Canadian gymnastics championships, held May 9 to May 11 in P.E.I.
The women’s provincial championships took place in Amhertsberg during the same April weekend as the men’s event.
OGC’s Jenna Lalonde was the Ottawa athlete with the highest-level finish at the women’s event. The 12-year-old explained that it’s her confidence that helps her succeed.
“I tried my best. I made a few mistakes, but that’s part of it. Then I can learn and make those corrections for nationals,” Lalonde said.
TRYumph Gymnastics’ Annika Magneron was one of three athletes from her club that qualified for the Eastern Canadians championships.
“I’m excited,” Magneron said. “And I’m proud to have made it.”
She placed 5th overall in the Aspire 1 category, for girls age 11 and 12 at the provincial championships. TRYumph’s Adelyn Hiscocks won a silver medal overall in the same Aspire 1 division, while Stacey Lelei (also of TRYumph) won a silver medal in the Level 7, 14+ division.
Hiscocks plans to fight for the gold at the Eastern Canadian championships. She told the Sportspage that she feels her performance can improve and that she’ll be working on her confidence and focus to ensure that.
“I’m excited to learn new skills,” Hiscocks explained. “And get better and stronger.”
Lelei says that her favourite aspect of her performances this year has been able to see others compete and find success.
Samantha Stafford of the Kanata GymnoSphere was also a standout at the provincial championships. She placed 1st overall amongst Level 8 girls ages 11-12. It’s her third straight year as her division’s all-around champion. She’ll compete at the Eastern Canadian championships. Read more about Stafford in our Athlete of the Month.
Local all-around provincial podiums
Connor Nguyen (Ottawa)
Level 1, Age 8 – 1st
Olivier Carriere (Tumblers)
Level 1, Age 10-11 – 3rd
Riley Gonzalez (Ottawa)
Level 4, U13 – 2nd
James Doucette (Ottawa)
Level 5, Age 13-16 – 1st
Nathanael Teng (Rideau)
National Open – 2nd
Aidan Li (Rideau)
Junior High-Performance – 3rd
Stacey Lelei (TRYumph)
Level 7, Age 14 – 2nd
Samantha Stafford (Kanata)
Level 8, Age 11-12 – 1st
Jenna Lalonde (Ottawa)
Novice HP, Age 11-12 – 1st
Adelyn Hiscocks (Ottawa)
Aspire 1, Age 11-12 – 2nd