Community Clubs Gymnastics Universities

HIGH ACHIEVERS: University of New Hampshire next big step for gymnast Cléante Théorêt in 2024-25

By Martin Cleary

Choices. Choices. Choices.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Cléante Théorêt is only 16 years old, but the soon-to-be Grade 12 student at École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité has already been confronted with four major choices in her young life.

And she appears to have made the right decision each time.

Whether it’s selecting her primary sport, determining what stream of competition to follow, picking between two competitions to represent Ontario or choosing which university would be best for her, Théorêt has hit the nail firmly on the head in her deliberations.

By selecting artistic gymnastics, a sport she was introduced to during parent-and-tot classes at age two, the Junior Olympic stream over the High-Performance pathway and the 2023 Canada Winter Games over a meet in California, the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre athlete set herself up well to be offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of New Hampshire for the 2024-25 school year.

About 14 months ago, Théorêt began the long and competitive process of introducing herself to NCAA university gymnastics coaches through emails in hopes of earning an athletic scholarship. Her package included videos of her best routines and clips from the gym.

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

She also attended a variety of summer gymnastics camps in Seattle, Washington, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Durham, New Hampshire, to further get her name out to the coaches. She often did that before attending the camps so the coaches would know about her before she arrived.

In the end, she had two offers and recently decided to attend the University of New Hampshire, where she’ll train and compete in the Wildcats women’s gymnastics program.

After completing her Grade 12 courses at Franco-Cite in 2023-24, she plans to study exercise science and kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire in hopes of becoming a physiotherapist.

She was inspired to study physiotherapy because of Flip Physiotherapy Centre’s Brenna Casey, who helped her through her recovery period, after she had medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery in her knee.

After touring the University of New Hampshire and seeing it for a second time this year while attending a gymnastics camp, Théorêt was sold on attending the New England university.

Cléante Théorêt will soon become a University of New Hampshire Wildcat. Photo provided

“The coach was so nice. I got to work with him a lot. I was blown away by how helpful he was. It was such a fun time. They have good coaches, but they’re also fun people, too,” she explained.

She also met many of the student-athletes on the women’s gymnastics team as they served as counsellors at the camp, and had an opportunity to train on the equipment.

When Théorêt was growing up, she was introduced to swimming, dancing and skating as well as gymnastics. When it came time to focus on one sport, she selected gymnastics.

“I liked the sensation of flipping,” stated Théorêt, who enjoyed climbing on all sorts of playground structures. “I liked setting goals and achieving stuff. I remember wanting to do a cartwheel without hands (an aerial). I achieved that and now I put it on the beam connected to other stuff. It has evolved.”

Théorêt entered recreational gymnastics at age four and joined the pre-competitive program at six years old. As she moved through the sport, there were two competitive streams – Junior Olympics, which also is called Development Program and has 10 levels, or High Performance, which was a more demanding program.

She selected the Junior Olympics program and has completed her second year at Level 10, which is the highest rung on the ladder in that program. For the 2023-24 season, she will remain as a Level 10 gymnast.

“I did think even last year (about High Performance). My coach gave me the option,” said Théorêt, who is coached by Melanie Major and Fiodor Martea.

“I could have gone High Performance, but I had such a blast in my first year at Level 10 and I met people from all over Canada. There aren’t that many 10s in Ontario or Canada. We’d cheer each other on. It was such a fun time.”

Having achieved Level-10 status, Théorêt also used that as one of her selling points to earn a university athletic scholarship.

“If I was a senior in High Performance, I’d miss more school and it would be more stressful,” she added. “But I would get to travel more.”

Travel and making her first team, however, came this season for Théorêt. It was her main goal for the 2023 season. She qualified for two Ontario travel teams, but she could only represent the province on one squad.

Théorêt had to pick between a meet in California or the Canada Winter Games, which were staged throughout Prince Edward Island.

Cléante Théorêt of the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre celebrated event finals silver medals for balance beam and floor, following her team gold medal. Photo: Corinne Bosch / Canada Winter Games

“Before this season, my goal was to make a team. I love the team aspect of competing,” she said. “I want to say it was a difficult decision. Who wouldn’t want to go to California?”

But ever since her former Ottawa Gymnastics Centre coach Conyer Clayton told her about the Canada Winter Games, she was sold on the idea, if that opportunity ever came her way.

“My coach (Clayton) told me a long time back lots about the Games. I wanted to make that team. I wanted to go. I had to pick that,” she said with enthusiasm.

When she competed at the Games, which were held Feb. 18 to March 5, she had the time of her life. Competing in her first team competition, she helped Ontario win the gold medal in team.

She also qualified for two individual event finals and won silver medals in beam and floor.

“My performances went really well. My beam routine was the best one I ever competed. I was so happy.

“You’d think in the moment, it would be stressful. But I only listened to the music. How did I not stress and stay focused and unfocused at the same time?” a puzzled, but thrilled Théorêt wondered.

Her floor routine was on the final day of competition and she “wanted to show off her dancing skills.”

“The day before I hit my best floor routine, but this one was still good.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.

Leave a Reply