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Sportspage cover story: Rockin’ Rhythm
Updated On: April 6, 2017
Cynthia Zhang. Photo provided

Kanata & Ottawa rhythmic gymnastics clubs hit new heights with historic showings at Elite Canada

By Phi Trinh

It’s been a graceful leap for the Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club onto the national stage. In just the second year of its national-level program, the club already has its first all-around medal from a major meet.

That came courtesy of rapidly-rising 10-year-old sensation Cynthia Zhang, who won a bronze medal in the novice competition at Elite Canada Mar. 16-19 in Toronto.

The podium marks a swift progression from last year when she was 11th at the Eastern Canadian regionals in her debut season at the national level.

“I was less confident (in the past) than I am now,” indicates Zhang, who topped the clubs and free events on the road to her 3rd-place overall finish. “It feels good to improve so much since last year.”

Zhang’s medal means she is following in the footsteps of one of her best friends at the club, Haley Miller, who snagged a groundbreaking podium performance of her own last season with a 2nd-place result in the junior open rope event at the Canadian Championships.

At Elite Canada, Miller earned a return trip to nationals thanks to her 8th-place all-around finish.

“I felt happy that all the hard work invested by the athletes is showing at the competition,” says KRSG coach Yuliana Korolyova, who joined the 41-year-old club last season to fuel its high-performance objectives.

The athletes who entered the national program nearly doubled their weekly training time to 20+ hours.

“Consistency comes from repetition and experience,” underlines Russian-born Korolyova, also a national-level judge.

The demands are daunting, but worthwhile for moments like the Elite Canada triumph, Zhang adds.

“Training is always really great. Every training, I learn something new or some things that I can improve,” she notes. “I really love rhythmic gymnastics, my coaches, and my club. I like the feeling of being on the carpet, and since every time is a little different, I get to enjoy it differently.

“I will keep pushing myself to my best and see what level I can get up to.”

National team member leaves group rhythmic legacy

The Ottawa Rhythmic Gymnastics Club added another piece to the sport’s local history themselves at Elite Canada. For the first time, Ottawa entered national-level group rhythmic gymnastics – a trio of 4-member squads that competed at each of the novice, junior and senior levels.

Much like Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games double-medallist Lucinda Nowell helped inspire her childhood Kanata club to pursue national-level programming, Ottawa drew encouragement from one of its own shining stars, Cleo Page.

The 3-time provincial champion was also in action at Elite Canada, now as a member of Canada’s Toronto-based national group rhythmic team. The 18-year-old is set to make her World Cup debut May 5-7 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

“(Cleo’s success) demonstrated to the girls that even though ORGC is one of the relatively smaller clubs in the province, with dedication, hard work and placing your trust in your coaches, any girl can achieve their goals,” signals ORGC head coach Xinhong Jin, a big fan of what the group discipline offers.

“It’s the best way to uphold sportsmanship, to keep friendship, to train leadership and to maintain teamwork,” she adds.

On top of national pursuits, provincial-level athletes were also in action locally in March. The annual Kanata Cup invitational took place Mar. 11-12 at Bridlewood Community Elementary School, while ORGC hosted an Ontario Championships qualifier Mar. 24-26 at its Ashbury College home base.

Alongside Level 6A, Age 16+ champion Britney Han from Kanata, host Ottawa Rhythmic had 3 athletes top division all-around standings at Ashbury: Mikayla Johnson (L4A, A10-12), Jessie Yang (L5A, A13-15), and Meara Donovan (L6C, A16+). Kanata’s Kacy Zhao, Alanna Lu and Serena Nie also won gold in individual apparatus events.

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