By Melissa Novacaska
Kanata GymnoSphere’s Samantha Stafford capped off her impressive gymnastics season with a top 10 finish among girls her age at the regional Canadian championships for the sport.
The 2019 Eastern Canadian Artistic Gymnastics Championships took place in Summerside, P.E.I. from May 8 to 12. Stafford finished 7th in the Level 8 Tyro division, while also winning a gold medal with Team Ontario.
In her solo events, Stafford placed 13th in vault, 11th in uneven bars, 3rd in beam and 5th for floor.
Before going to the eastern championships, Stafford spoke with Ottawa Sportspage about how she felt going into the event.
“I’m really excited, but at the same time kind of nervous because provincials is a big competition but then easterns is even bigger, so it means the judging is going to be harder. So I just need to be even better, “ Stafford said.
Though easterns went well for both Stafford and Team Ontario as whole, what’s more impressive about Stafford is the killer season she’s had.
Before heading to the eastern championships, Stafford won her third all-around provincial championships in a row. Though this is a huge accomplishment for the young gymnast, she knows she has other events to participate in.
“It’s cool [winning three provincials], but I don’t really think too much about it because I still have more competitions to come,” Stafford said.
Stafford said that going into provincials, she didn’t feel great because of some struggles during her qualifiers, but once she looked over scores from other competitions, she realized her scores had gotten better.
“That kind of gave me more confidence going into provincials knowing I’ve been getting better as I went along,” Stafford said. “I got more consistent and more confident with my skills. So that really helped a lot.”
Having fellow teammates compete at provincials was a plus for Stafford, because not only did she have people to chat with, but also they could support one another.
“It was better because you had more people cheering you on because sometimes you can’t hear anyone from the crowd so you could hear your teammates cheering you on,” Stafford said.
Stafford also said having teammates around and training with them in general is helpful to her.
“If I have a bad day then they’re there to remind me that it will get better and it’s not really terrible,” Stafford said.
Stafford, who has participated in gymnastics for three years and did swimming even before that, said her mom got her into the sport as a way to keep her from climbing on the walls at home.
With that said, after a few years of practice, Stafford said what she likes most about the sport is building new skills, but also correcting her skills so they become easier, while her favourite event in the sport is uneven bars.
“I like the feeling when you’re in the air and you’re flying,” Stafford said.
What’s also impressive about Stafford is moving up two levels since last year, with her now competing in the Level 8, Age 11-12 division.
Though it is a huge accomplishment, Stafford said there were some challenges that came along with that.
“I found it was challenging about getting the skills I needed because I didn’t really have any of them, but [my coaches] Lauren Mooney and Fiodor Martea were really good about helping me get the skills I needed and helping me get to where I needed to go,” Stafford said.
According to Stafford, she was able to get past her challenges with her coaches by doing a lot of progressions and the fact they were patient with her.
When talking about Stafford’s third provincial all-around win, Mooney said she was surprised about the final results, not because Stafford didn’t do well, but more so because her routines “can look a lot sharper”.
“Sometimes you can have a not good meet, but you’re kind of just the best one at that day, [but]
she didn’t get there by luck, she got there by hard work,” Mooney said. “Whether you have a good competition day or not, there’s still all of that hard work that goes into that. Definitely with Samantha, she’s definitely consistent with her work ethic and the gym.”
According to Mooney, a lot of hard work went into Stafford’s success this year and there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to how hard both Martea and herself worked with Stafford.
“There’s a lot of background work that goes into everything more than just physically being in the gym and training,” Stafford said. “It’s a team effort.”
With all the work Stafford and her coaches have been putting in so far, it’s paying off.
“This year it was nice to kind of just hear a lot of the compliments about just the way that she was presenting herself and the confidence that she had in doing it. Getting her to kind of feel a little bit more comfortable too over what she was doing,” Mooney said.
When talking about Stafford’s future, Mooney had positives to share.
“We’re always looking at developing athletes and progressing, whether they’re repeating the same level or not.”
For Stafford, what goes into her keys to success is something unique.
“For me I think [my key to success is] not thinking about what I’m going to do next in my routine [and] more thinking about what I am doing then,” Stafford said.
In terms of goals for the future, Stafford kept it favourable.
“I would like to be more consistent on an every day basis and more consistency even in new skills.”
A number of other Ottawa-based gymnasts performed and finished well at the 2019 Eastern Canadian Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
Academy had three competitors place including Annika Magneron landing as an
all-around champion in pre-novice aspire
division, TRYumph teammate Adelyn Hiscocks came 3rd in same category, while
there was an easy Team Ontario win. TRYumph’s
Stacy Lelei competed in the Level 7 Novice division winning silver and had a team gold medal as well.
Ottawa Gymnastics Centre had two men’s champions including James Doucette, who won the Level 5 men’s all-around and team gold, as well as Riley Gonzalez, who won the Level 4 U13 men’s all around and team gold.
Nepean Corona School Of Gymnastics had the biggest number of total athletes compete at the Level 6 through 10 provincials and finished in 4th place overall as a club under the Level 6 provincials.
With files from Dan Plouffe