Along with clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons and ropes, Lucinda Nowell and her senior women’s national rhythmic gymnastics team have been bringing determination to their recent practices and competitions.
The Ottawa native made her World Cup debut in April, competing in a pair of meets in Portugal and Italy. It was an experience Nowell will never forget, she says.
“It was really exciting. I mean, I’ve seen those competitions on youtube!” details the former Earl of March Secondary School student, noting the crowd of several thousand was very supportive for her first international event in Lisbon. “I was really worried about being nervous but it was actually the least nervous that I have ever been. Just excited and calm.”
But, for Nowell and her teammates, disappointment was just a quick pirouette away from the moment of pride that comes from wearing the maple leaf. The results from the World Cups were deflating: Canada placed seventh of eight teams in Lisbon and 17th of 19 in Pesaro.
“We didn’t perform really great,” notes Nowell, who moved to Toronto to train with the group rhythmic national team program last summer. “It was our first time as a team. But there were lots of comments from the judges.”
Athletes in rhythmic gymnastics are intimately familiar with the pursuit of perfection, down to the smallest detail – from the turn of a head to the catch of an apparatus. Since returning home in mid-April, the team has been using the judges’ feedback to completely rework their choreography.
“As a team, our elements, turns, balances and jumps needed the most improvement,” she explains. “That’s what those judges were saying.”
Rare return to town
The team put the needed changes in place immediately and got a chance to try out the new routine at the May 3 Koop Cup International at Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens).
Although they won’t be in a competition at the Canadian Gymnastics Championships, Nowell will soon get the chance to perform with her team in front of a hometown audience May 26-31 at Carleton University.
It will be a treasured trip home for Nowell, who rarely gets a break from training to visit back in Ottawa, where her career began as a seven-year-old at the Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club.
By 14, she added two or three practices a week at a Montreal club in order to compete at the national level. At last year’s Canadian Championships, Nowell placed fourth overall and won a silver medal in clubs competing individually.
After being offered a place with the group rhythmic national team, Nowell, along with her mother Helen, made another big move down to Toronto to join the Kalev Estienne Rhythmic Gymnastics Centres-based group.
The Grade 12 student will graduate from Leaside High School come June, and plans to continue her studies next year at the University of Toronto in humanities. Nowell’s first month of university will be quite a bit different than most students – she’ll barely even be on campus.
“September will be filled with training camps and preparing for the World Championships in Turkey,” indicates the reigning Ottawa Sports Awards rhythmic gymnast of the year. “Then I will re-audition for the team in October.”
Putting aside frosh week is a small price to pay for the type of experiences Nowell gets to have competing on the world stage, which she says she’d like to live over and over again.
“Last time it all felt unreal,” says the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games hopeful. “There were Russians, Ukrainians. And, there I was representing Canada. It was all so exciting.”
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