By Dan Plouffe
Ottawa Gymnastics Centre athlete Dalia Weisz has struck the right balance, whether that’s in her relationship with her mom (who also happens to be a gymnastics coach at her club), or when she’s winning a provincial title on the balance beam.
Weisz has spent several hours at the gym pretty much every day since she was one month old, when her mother Nausikaa Muresan Weisz returned to work shortly after giving birth.
“At the gym, I always call her ‘Coach Naus’ – I never call her ‘Mom’,” explains Weisz, now a Grade 8 student. “I want to just pretend like she’s a regular coach here and not my mom.”
Though Weisz now works with coaches Melanie Major and Fiodor Martea, Muresan did coach her daughter in a pre-competitive program, which was when the coach/mom separation rule was instituted.
“The girls would make fun of her. If she’d ever say ‘Mom’, they would say, ‘She’s not going to answer you, you know, you’re supposed to call her Naus,'” recalls Muresan. “Sometimes she’d try to call me Naus at home, and I’m like, ‘No. Here, it is Mom.'”
Weisz says she does enjoy having a coach as her mother if she ever has questions about skills or competitions.
“I don’t necessarily love her judging me or critiquing me, but I like her helping me out when I need it,” indicates Weisz, who currently studies in virtual school but plans to attend Lisgar Collegiate next year. “And she definitely supports me in whatever decisions I make. She’s always behind me and agrees.”
Despite gymnastics being so prominent in both mom and daughter’s lives, the sport is not often discussed at home. That’s a healthy division, underlines Muresan, whose older son also coaches recreational gymnasts at OGC.
“We don’t really discuss gymnastics. When I pick her up, sometimes I’ll ask how it was, and she’ll say, ‘Good.’ If she shares, fine. If she doesn’t, that’s fine too,” states OGC’s women’s artistic gymnastics program coordinator. “We don’t really discuss gymnastics much, and we don’t need to. Her coaches are in charge of her and she loves them.”
The down side of Muresan’s role in gymnastics is that she rarely gets to be a spectator when Weisz is competing, because she’s often coaching other athletes or judging. But that will change soon come the May 12-15 Eastern Canadian Championships in Sherbrooke.
Weisz will make her first appearance for Team Ontario at the Easterns thanks to her performance at the April 20-23 Ontario Championships in London. She won the balance beam event, was third on floor, and topped the all-around standings in the Level 8, Age 13-14 competition.
“I was ecstatic. I was so thrilled because all my hard work has finally paid off,” signals Weisz, who was third all-around in Level 7 at last year’s provincials in Ottawa, but didn’t get to go to Easterns (cancelled as COVID lingered).
“I’ve done so many routines, so many skills, so many drills, so much conditioning and flexibility,” she adds. “I’ve been working for this for so long that I think I really earned it. I’m really proud of myself.”
Muresan learned of her daughter’s victory via text message while she and fellow judges were accorded a bathroom break.
“I only got to give Dalia a quick hug, but I’m very happy for her. I know that was one of her goals,” Muresan notes. “Here at OGC, if you are a provincial champion or you make Team Ontario or Team Canada, you get your name on a plaque in the lobby. She’s very happy that she’ll have her name there twice.”
Muresan is very excited to be able to watch at Easterns as Mom, though she knows it can be hard to completely tune out Coach Naus.
“I do watch as a parent, and I also watch as a former athlete because I know where the worry areas are, and then I also watch as a judge to see approximately how much is she going to get – ‘What would I have scored her there?'” Muresan highlights. “It’s like I have three heads.”
Long wait pays off for fellow OGC champ
Weisz was one of three gymnasts from OGC to win all-around titles at the Ontario Championships. James Doucette repeated his victory from last year’s provincials in the men’s National Open division, while Olivia Coe’s triumph in the Level 7, Age 15+ women’s event was a very long time in the making.
The Grade 9 Sir Robert Borden High School student’s last provincials appearance came in her second year of competitive gymnastics, when she was just getting started in Level 3. Coe was set to compete at the provincials when she was in Level 5, but she broke her foot during warmup.
COVID cancelled her chance at competing in Level 6, and then she broke her knuckle before she could compete in provincials last when her club hosted the event at the EY Centre. That could have been a devastating kick when she was already down, but it wound up having the opposite effect on Coe.
“Last year I was on the verge of quitting. It was so hard because COVID just kept on going,” she recounts. “But when I broke my knuckle and I was volunteering at the event, I was like, ‘Wait. I actually miss this sport a lot.'”
Muresan says Coe strikes a nice balance between being easygoing and getting all her needed work done at the gym. Not getting too stressed proved to be a valuable asset for Coe at provincials. With the standings very tight, Coe nailed her final event of the competition to win balance beam gold as well as the all-around title by a minuscule margin of .032 points with her total score of 37.483.
“I was so full of adrenaline after competing that I didn’t (realize how close the scores were),” Coe reflects. “I still don’t think it’s really set in, but I’m pretty sure it’ll hit me pretty soon that I’m on Team Ontario and that’s crazy.”
Coe says she’s learned to pay close attention to little details from her coaches – Adrianka Forrest (who won a Level 7 provincial title herself 11 years earlier) and Muresan – which makes all the difference when medals are decided by the point of a toe.
“I focus on things like making sure I bend my knee right or keeping my core tight,” she highlights. “My coaches really helped me a lot.”
Big Ottawa group headed to Easterns & nationals
The nation’s capital will be well represented at the Eastern Canadians as well as the Canadian Championships from May 18-22 in Richmond, B.C., led by a dozen gymnasts from OGC.
“I think this was probably the least nervous competition I’ve had so far in my seven years in Canada,” smiles OGC coach Martea, a former Republic of Moldova national team athlete. “The preparation was just very smooth. Especially the last week leading into competition, it was just such a good, positive atmosphere.
“We’re really proud of them. I think the hard work paid off in the end, as well as their determination, and patience.”
It was a local sweep of the Level 6, Age 9-10 provincial podium, with Kanata Gymnosphere’s Alyssa Briggs on the top step, teammate Ava Formica in third, and TRYumph’s Ella Colledge in second, while TRYumph’s Zoe Murray won the Level 6, Age 13-14 event.
Third in L7, A11-12, Kanata Gymnosphere’s Kylie McGee also earned a place on Team Ontario for the Eastern Canadian Championships (which includes competition for women in the national stream and provincial levels 7-9).
Though they missed qualifying for nationals, Kanata’s Angelina Polegato and OGC’s Alexandra Reddick and Cléante Théorêt will also get to represent Ontario at the Easterns.
Four local athletes previously qualified for nationals thanks to their strong performances at February’s Elite Canada meet: Novice competitors Addison Graham from OGC and Julia Read and Mackenzie Grant of Kanata Gymnosphere, along with OGC’s Jenna Lalonde in Senior High-Performance.
At the same time as the provincials, Lalonde was in Montreal taking part in final national team qualifications, and she wound up earning a place on Team Canada for the May 26-28 Senior Pan American Championships in Colombia.
On the men’s side, OGC’s Yasir El Sakka won bronze in the Junior high-performance category to clinch a nationals berth alongside Doucette.
Earning men’s Team Ontario berths for the Easterns were OGC’s Jamie Ghergari (Provincial Level 3, Under-13), Connor Nguyen and William Khawam (both Provincial Level 4, 13+) and Kieran Manuel Rosselli (Provincial Level 5).
Rideau Gymnastics athletes earned a trio of provincial titles: Ivan Baranov in Provincial Level 1, Age 10, Oliver Fong in Provincial Level 2 U13, and Ilya Baranov in Provincial Level 2, 13+.
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