Three of Ottawa’s top young gymnasts will perform on the national stage for the first time at the May 18-22 Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships.
Haley Miller, 12, Erika Lin, 14, and Cynthia Zhang, 11, from the Kanata Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics Club will head to Winnipeg after a season where they experienced a new level of dedication and hard work as part of the club’s new national-level program.
“We’ve been working so hard together all year and we’ve seen each other’s ups and downs,” notes Miller. “To be able to go to nationals together is really exciting.”
Miller says it was a “very surreal moment” when she learned she’d qualified for nationals through the Apr. 15-17 Eastern Regional Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Toronto.
On the heels of her 2nd-place performance at Elite Ontario, Miller placed 2nd overall in her Junior category and was the highest-ranked Ontario gymnast. Lin also competed at the Junior level, placing 8th overall, while Zhang finished 11th in the Novice division, just ahead of KRSG teammate Emma Yau, who narrowly missed the nationals cut.
“These results are beyond the club’s expectations,” KRSG founder Dasa Lelli states proudly. “Simply because it’s the first time they’ve entered this stream.”
Before this season, the club had no national program, competing only in the provincial stream and the recreational level.
Lelli recalls having to send gymnasts to other clubs once they got to a certain point in their development. As the KRSG coach of 40+ years noticed the talent increasing at her club, “we had to enter the national stream” in order for her athletes to reach their full potential, she details.
That meant hiring Yuliana Korolyova – a well-known coach and national judge from Toronto “who could take talented gymnasts to the next level,” Lelli explains.
“Yuliana pushed us a lot,” Miller highlights. “She supports and praises us a lot. She makes sure that we’re working and doing our best.”
Lisa Miller, Haley’s mother, believes the strong coaching at KRSG is behind the gymnasts’ success, as well as the “strong base and foundation Dasa’s helped create, the culture in the club, and how they train the girls not just physically but mentally.”
Korolyova, meanwhile, says it’s all about the athletes.
“When the girls are so hard-working, it’s easier to give them all the tools for success,” indicates the Russian-born coach. “They’re the ones doing all the hard work and I’m happy very happy to work with such a great team.”
With their nationals debut on tap, Miller says she’s excited to perform in a new environment – one she witnessed first-hand as a spectator/helper when Ottawa hosted the Canadian Gymnastics Championships in 2013 and 2014.
“I would look at the gymnasts and be like, ‘I want to be there one day,’ Miller recalls. “Now I’m happy that it’s my turn to be on the carpet.”
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