By Enette Pauzé
Acrobatic gymnastics (Acro) is a highly competitive sport with great Canadian support for budding and experienced athletes. At the top of the goal list is to qualify to represent our nation at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games during October 1-12, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The exciting announcement was made in August of 2016 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board, when Acro was added to the list of competitive sports for the first time. A recent update has indicated that the discipline will be Mixed Pairs (age 15-18) instead of Women’s Groups as originally announced.
We had the opportunity to interview two of OGC’s young and bright stars, mixed pair Theo and Mila. They’ve been having a great season, setting records and exceeding personal goals. Competitive athletics in any sport takes dedication and team work. Let’s take a look through the eyes of Theo and Mila as they set their sights towards representing Canada in 2018.
|Age started gymnastics||10yrs||7yrs|
|Current age group||11-16 Mixed Pair||11-16 Mixed Pair|
|Competitive program and level||Competitive Acro – FIG level 11-16||Competitive Acro – FIG level 11-16|
|Years of experience||4yrs||5yrs|
2017 Competition Highlights & Results to Date
1st Acro Qualifier – Gold
2nd Acro Qualifier – Gold
Provincial Championships – Gold
Las Vegas Acro Cup/USA National Team qualifier – Gold
There are many paths that lead athletes to gymnastics. Why did you choose the sport?
Theo: “I was first introduced to gymnastics through my younger brother. While I didn’t make the team on the first tryout, I was later invited to join the men’s interclub group. With a background in competitive dance and Taikwondo, I eventually had to make a decision between sports as the training hours increased. While at my first out of province competition for Acro in Montreal, l went to see my first Cirque Du Soleil show, and after seeing it I decided someday I would like to have the opportunity to perform with Cirque. I was really fortunate – the following summer I was selected to perform with Cirque Du Soleil in the Opening Ceremonies for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. All this made the decision to choose Acro very easy!!”
Mila: “I used to be in recreational gymnastics and dance when I was little, and then both clubs asked my mom if I would join their competitive team. It was a tough decision since I really enjoyed both. One day my mom came across Acro and she was amazed by the sport. She thought I would probably enjoy it considering there was both Gymnastics and dance. So I tried out for the Acro Competitive program and was accepted. I was very lucky that my mom found Acro for me because she was right, I really enjoy everything about Acro and I have had an amazing time so far!”
The benefits of being a competitive athlete must be worth all the hard work. What do you love about your sport?
Mila: “I like that it is a team sport and I love the skills that we do in Acro. In our dynamic routine, we do a lot of flips and jumps, it’s like I’m flying in the air. And then there’s the balance routine where it’s all about strength and balance, presses and handstands. We work hard all year to get ready for competition season. I love going to competitions especially when we travel internationally. Going on trips is the best part! Acro has taken me to Italy and just recently to Las Vegas. My partner Theo and I did great and won our first International Gold medal. It was amazing to hear the Canadian National Anthem play as we received our medals.”
Theo: “What I love about gymnastics is definitely the travelling. Travelling to other countries is a great excuse to travel and I get to see different countries. I have been fortunate to travel to Belgium and China. China was my first time competing at The Worlds. Most recently I competed in Las Vegas with Mila. We were very excited to get Gold! This was our club’s 1st FIG level gold medal at an international competition. Missing school is great too.”
We all have special heroes or mentors that inspire us. What athlete do you look up to and why?
Theo: “I would definitely look up to Lewis Walker. He is a Great Britain gymnast that is also in a mixed pair like me but he is in a lot higher of a level and has been doing Acro for much longer than me.”
Mila: “Marina Chernova – she’s from Russia and she is the best in the world. She won Gold at the World Championships. She is in a mixed pair just like me, except she’s at a senior level. I hope to be as great as her one day.”
The road to success isn’t easy. What has been your biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?
Mila: “Double backs are my biggest challenge. Now that I have learned different techniques at OGC, I feel more confident to overcome it. My coaches Scott and Greg are really great! They always encourage me and make me believe in myself!”
Theo: “I think that my biggest challenge was getting selected for the world championships last year. My previous partner and I both didn’t have much experience together, and by the time we went for the selections, we had only spent about 5 months together as partners. I was the youngest AG 11-16 base competitor and wasn’t very strong at the time, so skills were a challenge.”
Even budding athletes are role models for other competitive and non-completive lovers of gymnastics. What tips do you have for young athletes who want to try the sport?
Theo: “A tip I would give to younger athletes would be to not give up and to not cheat yourself. You may think that the sport is hard and it is, but you need to be harder to be successful in it and cheating yourself in conditioning, diet or sleep isn’t going to help you in this sport. So never give up.”
Mila: “Keep trying even if you fall, because all you have to do is get up and try again.”
You are young and already accomplished athletes. What is the biggest goal you are chasing right now?
Mila: “My goal right now is to go to the 2017 Pan American games in Daytona Beach, Florida, and my next goal is to go to the 2018 World Championships in Belgium and win a medal!”
Theo: “My biggest goal that I am chasing right now is to make it into the pan am games October 2017 and medal in it. My next goal is the Worlds competition in Belgium Feb 2018. I am also very excited to hear that Acrobatics gymnastics has been approved for the first time as a Youth Olympic sport and that Mixed Pairs may be the 1st category to compete. It would be very awesome to be able to compete in the Olympics one day!”
The love and support from family and coaches are critical to the success of young athletes. What words of wisdom does their family and coaches have for Mila and Theo?
Mila’s parents/guardians: “Dream big and never give up, stay focused and keep moving towards your goals. We will always support Mila with her goals. She works hard every day, not only at the gym but also with her schoolwork and chores. There is not one day that goes by that I am not proud of my Mila! Being in a competitive sport is not always about medals, it’s about the journey! There have been so many valuable life lessons.”
Theo’s parents/guardians: “Stay focused on your goals and work hard. Theo is one of the hardest working, focused kids I know. When he sets his mind to something he does it! I am so proud of him! This is not just in gymnastics, but in everything he does. As a family we have made a lot of sacrifices and provide a lot of support and encouragement to ensure Theo is able to follow his passion, and it is worth every effort! Theo loves gymnastics, and the gym, coaches, athletes and parents have become Family. Literally, we refer to “Our Acro Family”. When you train, travel and compete together, you naturally spend time together and support each other. These are relationships and memories for life!”
Coaches: “If we break down how long Mila and Theo have been together, they have gave it their all and we can see that in their performances together. We have worked hard to bring emotions out in them both, especially in Mila. She now performs and tries to touch the judges with her facial expression and body movements. If we stay focused and keep motivated, I can see great things from this pair.”
Special thank you to Theo, Mila, their parents and their coaches for contributing to this article!