Luck of the Irish at gym club
Gymnastics: Dubliners attend Mountain Shadows camp
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
Some Irish eyes were smilin’ upon an Okotoks gymnastics club earlier this summer.
Two gymnasts from Dublin were bouncing, twisting and smiling like they had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as they participated in the Mountain Shadows summer camp last month.
It was a chance to improve at a sport that Daragh Matthews has fallen in love with.
“I love flipping around and learning more moves,” the 16-year-old Matthews said with a laugh. “But the level in Ireland is a lot lower than it is here, but it is getting better. I thought I could learn a lot here.”
Matthews is on the Irish national team, competing in the Northern European championships in 2012 in Scotland. However, she still fits right in at Mountain Shadows.
The Okotoks club’s coach Jim McLuskey said Matthews would compete at approximately the P5 level — an advanced level — in Alberta, of which there have been several at Mountain Shadows.
Matthews said the popularity of gymnastics in Ireland is growing, particularly since the 2012 Olympics in London. However, the majority of the gymnasts would be green with envy with the equipment available in Okotoks.
She said most clubs in Ireland are shared facilities such as a school, so as a result the equipment must be set up and taken down after every session.
Another great thing about Mountain Shadows is life in the pits. The soft landing in the foam in-the-floor jumping pits, which are standard at the Okotoks club, is virtually unheard of in Ireland.
“I am trying to improve my beam, my vault and on my double back (flip) in tumbling,” she said. “In our gym we don’t have a pit, that makes it really hard to improve your skills.”
In fact, the pits was a selling point for Matthews when her friend Sonya Harkness, talked her into making the trip across the pond to attend the Okotoks camp.
Harkness moved to Dublin from Calgary approximately four years ago. She had been a regular participant of the Mountain Shadows camp before and after moving to Dublin.
“I told her (Daragh): ‘Guess what, they have a pit,’” Harkness said with a laugh. “A pit means you can land on your head and not break your neck.”
There are some outstanding obligations the Irish gymnasts must perform upon landing in Dublin, McLuskey said.
“I told them whatever they learn here, they have to use them over in Europe, it’s not just a break,” he said. “They have both improved a lot.”
The Irish gymnasts got to have the full Okotoks experience, including sitting on the berm and chasing down foul balls at a Dawgs game at Seaman Stadium.
Ireland is the farthest an athlete has come to attend the Mountain Shadows camp. In the past there have been gymnasts from Nunavut, Mexico, the United States and across western Canada.
Mountain Shadows is preparing for the upcoming gymnastics season.