Every day Sydney Townsend can be found running around the gym at the Revolution Gymnastic Club in Waterloo. Instead of walking from one side of the gym to the other, she does a front roll, cartwheel, a couple of skips and a jump. The 12-year-old is training to become one of the best gymnasts in the province. Last weekend Sydney competed as a Novice National at the Elite Canada Screening competition held in Oshawa where she finished with a gold medal for her floor routine, a silver medal on uneven bars, a bronze medal on balance beam and claimed the silver medal in the all-around in a category of 14 gymnasts from across Ontario.
As a result of her accomplishment last weekend, Sydney has now qualified to compete at Elite Canada in February in Mississauga where she will compete against the top athletes in her category from across Canada.
This was no fluke for the Grade 7 student at Conestogo Public School, as she finished fifth all-around at the Ontario championships in the Novice National category in 2010-2011. That finish earned her a spot on Team Ontario, representing the province at the Canadian championships.
Her teammate Stephanie Merkle finished second over all in the senior program, while Julia Moreau finished first all around in the provincial level nine, the last level of provincials before heading to nationals.
Since the age of three Sydney has been tumbling and jumping, starting in a recreational classes in Mississauga. At six was asked to join their pre-competitive programs. “I had too much energy when I was younger. I really like getting all my built-up energy out, and gymnastics help do that on a daily basis,” said Sydney.
Since moving to Conestogo with her family last year Sydney attends the Waterloo club and is coached by Aaron and Angela Brokenshire and Berrie Onishenko. She trains Monday to Friday, five hours a day and works out every other Sunday to keep in shape for the program demands.
Sydney’s mother Marcie picks her daughter up from school at 1 p.m. every day so she can start her training at 2 p.m. “The school has been really supportive. In the GTA they have a high performance programs in schools which is structured so that all the kids are finished their classes at lunch time but they don’t have that here so we spoke to the principal at Conestogo Public School and they have tailored her classes so that she is only missing gym class in the afternoon,” said Marcie.
Sydney’s favorite discipline is the uneven bars and she completed her first competitive Tkatchev last weekend. A Tkatchev is performed on the high bar or uneven bars, and can be done in the straddle, pike, or layout position. In a Tkatchev, the gymnast swings up like a back giant and releases the bar in an arched position. She flies over it with her back to it, then sits up and catches the bar again.
“I was a little surprised by my results at the competition because I did not start the day off very well. I fell twice during the vault competition,” said Sydney, noting that was unexpected as she finished second in vault in Canada last year.
“Even though I fell I knew I was not out of the competition. It was not the first time I made a mistake and I am very good at brushing it off and carrying on with the competition.” Sydney’s coaches were very pleased with their young athlete’s performance at the competition, as they had added new skills to her program and whole new floor routine.
“We were not surprised that she was capable of having a result like that but with never having been to a competition with her before you are never sure what you are going to get, as everyone competes a little differently. We were pleasantly impressed that she was a gamer and is competitive,” said coach Aaron Brokenshire. “There is always a chance that they will fall but she rose up to the occasion. She really is a fun kid and knows how to handle herself very well for her age.”
Sydney has her eye on the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: she’ll be 16 years old and eligible to compete for Canada.
“She has the potential to be an Olympic athlete. She has the talent and the ability to get there and her aptitude is high enough to get her to go as far as she wants,” said Brokenshire.