An Okotoks gymnast was able sneak into the final round at the Alberta Winter Games.
From there Mia Dionne sprung to the top of the podium on Feb. 18.
Dionne took home the gold medal in JO 6 with a 9.483 at the Games in Fort McMurray. She qualified for the vault by finishing sixth in the qualifying round on Feb. 17. The top eight of the 32 gymnasts moved on to the finals.
“I thought I was going to get, like, eighth — last,” Dionne said of the vault finals. “All of the girls got really high 9s (in the qualifying round) and I got low 9s.”
But it was a new day for the finals —all eight qualifiers started from scratch.
Dionne, who was competing for Zone 2 (Big Country) at the Games, set the tone early in the finals, nailing her front-hand spring for the gold-medal.
“Her first vault, she just stuck gold,” said Kiera Schrader-Balson of Okotoks’ Mountain Shadows Gymnastics Club.
“It was like a carbon copy of her qualifying vault, just tighter.”
Dionne, a student at St. John Paul II Collegiate, was confident after her stellar first vault, but she realized there were still plenty of vaults to come.
Being left to twist with your thoughts while watching other vaulters can nearly be as tough as twisting the body for a gold medal winning handspring.
“They all did really good, so I was really nervous,” Dionne said.
Her second vault, while impressive, wasn’t quite up to the gold medal standard of the first attempt.
Dionne also made the finals in the bars and finished eighth overall.
“I thought I could have done better,” she said.
Balson said Dionne is being a bit hard on herself.
“Mia was very consistent – she’s been consistent all year,” the coach said. “I agree with Mia, there is room for improvement but for the routine for which she has been training, Mia hit it.”
Jaidyn Hensel, a student at Okotoks Junior High School, competed for Zone 1 in JO 7 because she lives in Nanton.
“I did pretty good, but I didn’t make any event finals,” Hensel said. “But I had a personal best in the vault.”
She said the 10-hour trek to the Oil Sands capital was worth it.
“It was a good experience to be on a different team — I got to train and meet with new girls,” she said.
Kamryn Felstad, a member of Mountain Shadows, competed for Zone 3 as she lives in Calgary.
Gymnasts are modest to a fault — she summed up her performance as “okay.”
“I got a good vault score, a 9.7 and made the finals,” Felstad said.
Not bad considering she had an air cast on her right foot just three weeks before the Games.
Unfortunately, Felstad hurt her foot in the qualifying round and could not compete in the finals.
Although she lives in south Calgary, the trips to Mountain Shadows for training are worth it.
“My coaches here are the best,” Felstad said. “They help me when I don’t know what I am doing… They fix it for the next time and they don’t upset me. It’s great.”
Rhyan Plaza, a student at Okotoks Junior High, didn’t qualify for any of the events finals in JO 7.
Her best event was the vault — which surprised her.
“I don’t how that was my best event,” Plaza said. “I usually get low 8s, but this time I got a 9.2”
Balson, who was the JO 7 Zone 2 coach, knows why Plaza did so well, it’s no secret, just plenty of hard work.
“She has been working very hard on her shapes on her vaults,” Balson said. “She has been working very hard on her shapes in her vault to make her better for games and she definitely succeeded in that.”
To see the full results from the Alberta Winter Games go to albertasport.ca