By Mark Colley
Earlier this season, when Serena Nie attended the Elite Canada rhythmic gymnastics competition, she left with a newfound hunger.
She’d just missed out on qualifying for the high performance category at the Canadian Championships, an elite designation given to only 15 athletes across the country. But when nationals came around, she was ready.
On the first day of competition at last month’s Canadian Championships in Markham, Nie won the senior open division all-around title. She also bettered the scores of many gymnasts in the senior high performance division, which earned earned her a place in the finals of the HP category the next day.
A seventh-place finish against the country’s very best capped off a brilliant weekend for the Grade 11 student from Earl of March Secondary School. Nie earned senior open gold medals in the ball and clubs events on top of the all-around crown.
The Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club athlete had finished second all-around last year, which fed her motivation to perform this time.
“I wanted to improve, to have a step up, instead of second,” she highlighted. “Placing second again would be great, obviously, but being first is the best.”
Kanata Rhythmic head coach Yuliana Korolyova said Nie’s finish last year only increased how hard she worked.
“She came a long way,” Korolyova explained. “It’s great to see that it does not demotivate her. It just motivated her to keep going further.”
It’s Nie’s determination in the face of adversity that makes her a special athlete, added Korolyova.
“The determination and the ability to sustain the ups and downs … The emotion, the physicality, the tiredness,” she indicated.
Nie put together a solid performance in hoop, then a great performance in ball — probably the best routine she’s done all year, she said. While her clubs and ribbon efforts were a bit “messy,” she still emerged with flying colours – gold especially.
“I know I am champion, but it doesn’t really feel like it yet,” Nie signalled.
Kanata teammate Selena Pang finished 10th in the senior high performance division. Another Kanata athlete, Keira Agnew, beat out Nie for gold in the senior open hoop event and went on to place eighth in the high performance hoop final.
Kanata’s Silvia Yu also earned a top-eight finish, placing eighth all-around in the novice (age 10-12) category.
International event in Portugal helped fuel national success
Nie also travelled to Portimão, Portugal with Agnew and two other teammates in late April and early May for an international competition. It was Nie’s first time visiting Europe and the event proved to be an immensely valuable opportunity.
It exposed the gymnasts to a huge variety of athletes and countries, opening their eyes to international techniques, music and artistry. Korolyova travelled with the girls for the competition and said it’s important for them to be representing a country, not just themselves.
“[The meet was] really different from the ones we see in Canada,” Nie echoed. “It was a good experience, good exposure and it was fun.”
It was also intimidating as a first-time international competitor to be performing on the same carpet as such seasoned and talented gymnasts, but it proved valuable come the nationals.
“Coming back here to the Canadian Championships, I didn’t feel as nervous as I was on the international stage,” Nie indicated. “Compared to Portugal, it was very small.”
Korolyova said that having a national champion in the club can serve to inspire younger athletes to follow in her footsteps.
“It shows that you can go after those bigger dreams,” she underlined. “The coaches are there and the parents are very supportive. We’ve got a great team.”
Double-digit podiums for local athletes at provincials
A total of 10 local athletes won individual medals at the June 9-11 Ontario Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Markham.
A pair of athletes from the Ottawa Rhythmic Gymnastics Club were crowned provincial champs – Ellisif Fredrika Stephenson in Level 3A (Age 9-11) and Vlada Coveny in Level 6C (Age 16+).
Earning second-place finishes were Barrhaven’s Amber Kwan (L3A, A9-12), Ottawa’s Shiyi (Mia) Cui (L5A, A13-15), Mackenzie Hao (L6A, A16+) and Elizabeth Sklokin (L6B, A16+).
And taking bronze were Kanata’s Fiona Tong (L5B, A13-15) and Phoenix Wang (L6B, A16+), Ottawa’s Claire Sun (L5C, A13-15)) and Pirouette’s Caroline Wang (L6C, A16+).
– with files from Dan Plouffe
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