Megan Kawai, 16, (centre) from the Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club was a provincial all-around gold medalist, while Emma Yau, 7 (left) won gold for her rope routine in the Ontario Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, and Tianna Yuen, (right) also 7, earned a medal from Rhythmfest. Photo provided
By Dan Plouffe
With a 12-year background in the sport and 17 hours of training per week, Megan Kawai’s recent provincial rhythmic gymnastics title has been a long time in the making. But the Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club athlete believes the most important ingredient to her success in a sport that requires a mastery of a vast set of diverse skills is her older sister.
“What inspired me most to continue in gymnastics would be my sister, Emily,” explains Kawai, noting Emily was a former individual provincial champion herself in her final year of competing.
Kawai had two older sisters that led the way into rhythmic gymnastics, which she picked up at age 4. The A.Y. Jackson Secondary School student who just finished Grade 10 had competed in seven previous Ontario championships before this season, and won gold medals in the duo event three years running.
But she’d never before stood at the top of the podium as an individual champion, but this season offered the best opportunity, even though she was competing in the highest provincial category, Level 6C.
“I don’t normally get that nervous, but a week before provincials, I was freaking out,” Kawai recalls. “Since I had won the qualifiers, I knew I had a really, really good chance, so that’s what made me the most nervous.”
The 16-year-old also faced an added challenge – instead of competing on separate days was the case in past years, her group event was scheduled just before her individual events on the Friday of the three-day championships.
“It wasn’t that bad actually,” says Kawai, who took bronze with her KRSG club teammates after an “OK” group routine. “I thought I was going to be a lot more tired than I was, but all the adrenaline I think kept me awake.”
She also received a boost since the first event was her favourite, ribbon.
“It’s really, really upbeat and bubbly, so my personality shows the best through that routine,” highlights Kawai, who also won the clubs and choice (rope) events en route to the overall title. “Everyone was feeling my energy.”
And of course there was the extra motivation of having her sister in the stands. It was an easy trip from downtown Toronto up to Etobicoke for Emily, a 21-year-old Ontario College of Art and Design student who used to coach Megan a little under the guidance of long-time KRSG coach and club founder Dasa Lelli.
Kawai felt “really, really happy” when they called her name as provincial champion, but seeing her sister afterwards was an equally special moment.
“She was really proud of me,” recounts Kawai, who finished close to 3.5 points ahead of second place competitor Chantal Mason of the Ottawa Rhythmic Gymnastics Club with a three-event combined total of 54.916. “She said that my ribbon routine was definitely the best. She said that what made me standout from my competition was that my expression looked like I was really enjoying myself.”
Big medal haul for local athletes
Kawai’s performance launched the Kanata team towards a large medal haul throughout the June 8-10 weekend.
Earning individual all-around provincial championships medals were Danica Goodchild (silver in Level 6B, Age 16+), Erika Lin (silver in Level 3B, Age 9-10) and Haley Miller (bronze in Level 2B, Age 8-9), while Cleo Page (silver in Level 5A, Age 13-15), Chantal Mason (silver in Level 6C, Age 16+) and Anica Praught (bronze in Level 6B, Age 16+) won all-around medals for Ottawa.
All-around medal winners from Rhythmfest included Kanata's Donya Hassan Zadeh, Emma Watson, Adeline Wang and Megan Storr, along with Ottawa's Francesca Ann Ryan, Sophie Mcphail-Guay and Sarah Swim.
Kanata teams won gold medals in Novice group, Junior group, Junior group of 4/5, silver in Novice group of 4/5, Novice duet/trio, and bronze in AGG Junior, while Ottawa collected gold in Senior group, Senior group of 4/5, AGG Senior, and took silver in AGG Pre-Novice.
Athletes from the nation’s capital not only occupied many places on the podium in individual and group events, they also owned a sizeable portion of the qualifying positions for the provincial championships in a sport where the majority of the competitions take place around Toronto.