WINNIPEG – Banff gymnast Leona Gentien overcame one of her biggest obstacles this season on the big stage.
Representing Alberta, the 13-year-old athlete showed off her stuff at the Western Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Winnipeg between April 21-23, winning gold in beam and silver on bars, which helped give the Wildrose blue the nudge into first overall at the top proving ground for western gymnasts.
“I was staying focused and not letting the nerves get to you and like focusing on one skill at a time,” said Gentien, who competes in Canadian Junior Olympic (JO) Level 9.
Just a few weeks prior, Gentien was named an alternate for nationals after Alberta Provincial Championships in Edmonton. Coming into Westerns as one of Alberta's most talented gymnasts, Gentien performed a near flawless beam routine, scoring an 8.900 high score and topped things off with a 9.150 on bars.
“We knew if she stuck to her routine, she would do well ‘cause her skills are beautiful when she does them,” said Carley Evans, one of Gentien's coaches at Canmore Illusions Gymnastics Club.
The Banff gymnast was the only member of the local club who competed at Westerns.
On beam this season, coach Evans said Gentien had fallen off while doing a routine at every competition. At Westerns, however, the young champion “brought it” to take home the gold.
“Her bars have been solid all year. Leona loves bars. She gets complimented all the time about being able to swing and her casts and everything, so that [result] was not a shock, but beam was surprising," said Evans. "She’s had a lot of mental blocks on beam where she’s been nervous with skills, but she seems to be doing a lot better now.”
Given the immaculate results she's put up this season, Gentien is eyeing a step up to JO Level 10 next season.
“I’d like to move up a level and hopefully do some higher level skills,” she said.
Next week, Illusions is hosting its 20th Summit Invitational from May 5-8 at the Canmore Recreation Centre.