By Chad Ouellette
Despite spraining her right ankle during her vault routine on day two of the 2019 Elite Canada in Women’s Gymnastics competition, 12-year-old Jenna Lalonde battled through the pain and clinched a spot at the upcoming national championships.
Because her final event was bars, Lalonde decided to continue with a routine that she knew would end with some pain from the landing. Surprisingly to her, she finished 1st overall in what she says was her best bar routine ever.
Representing the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre, Jenna was the only gymnast from Eastern Ontario to qualify. Out of 36 gymnasts at the novice level, she placed 7th to qualify for the upcoming national event being held in Ottawa from May 21 to May 29.
“I’m actually really excited for it to be held in Ottawa,” Lalonde says. “Because I know most of the people there and it’s nice when you don’t have to travel as much. It wouldn’t bother me if everyone came to watch. So, I’m happy it’s at Carleton (University).”
Having the opportunity to have those who are looking up to her to watch her perform may inspire them to follow their dreams.
After a rough first day where she finished 17th overall, her father, Terry Lalonde, says his daughter told him that she planned to move up 10 spots in day two of the event, which was on Feb. 1. Her prediction proved prophetic, as she moved into 7th place following a 4th place finish on the floor and a 1st place finish on the uneven bars.
“The first day I found I was a bit nervous and bouncy,” said the younger Lalonde. “But then the second day I was able to get focused and I was able to hit my routine.”
After finding out her day one placement, head coach Melanie Major knew that her two events on the second day must be top-notch performances if she hoped to qualify for the national event.
“What we were trying to do was get our difficulty score up,” Major says. “So trying to be as consistent as possible so that she could qualify to the Canadian Championships. That’s something you need, you need to have a certain execution score.”
Since Lalonde began competitive gymnastics at seven years old, Major has been alongside coaching her through competitions and training.
Lalonde’s father explained that the start to his daughter’s gymnastics career originally meant to be just a fun outing with friends and family.
“We were at Starr Gymnastics with friends just doing rec classes,” he said. “It was her friend that moved over to Ottawa Gymnastics (Centre), we had no intention over going there.
“Of course, Jenna says ‘I want to go with my friend.’ So, she went over there and they saw her and the coach … from Starr gymnastics called the club where she was headed and said ‘take a look at this girl.”
From there they evaluated her, and put her in a competitive program. Unfortunately, she was too young to compete – only being seven at the time – but she was paired up with Major. She began training only eight hours a week and is currently up to 26 hours.
With such a busy schedule, it takes a lot of people to turn the gears in Lalonde’s journey. Her father ensures she has a drive to every training session, often leaving work to drive her, while her school, Joan of Arc Academy, also helps accommodate her busy lifestyle.
They offer a program that takes in to consideration how athletically involved she is outside of school. She does all of her core curriculum with them, which includes math, science, and French, while she’s able to adapt classes like phys-ed and drama outside of regular classroom time.
With all the training she does, Lalonde is constantly surrounded by those who push her to be the best she can be. After the first day of her competition, she went back out onto the floor to watch the senior gymnastics team perform, for a glimpse at what she hopes is her someday.
“It’s really cool,” she says. “I look at all the skills they have and it kind of gives me an idea of what I want to have in the future.”
Local provincial-level athletes have been busy winning medals in Ontario Championships qualifying competitions both in town and away.
The biggest bevy came from the hometown event on Jan. 26-27, as pink and purple from the city’s east and west-end clubs ruled Les Sittelles’ Envol meet.
Winning all-around age group crowns were Kanata GymnoSphere’s Leah Floysvik, Mila Dwivedi & Tehya Hopkins, and Les Sittelles’ Kaitlyn Ross & Julia Hajjar in Level 6; GymnoSphere’s Emma Ireland, Victoria Beaudin & Ariane Charron, and Les Sittelles’ Maya Tudor & Janique Boulet in Level 7; GymnoSphere’s Angelina Polegato and Les Sittelles’ Jasmine McIntyre in Level 8; and GymnoSphere’s Freya Cope & Madison Capretta in Level 9.
Level 7-10 women’s artistic gymnasts will compete at the Ontario Championships Apr. 5-7 in Amherstburg (with the men next door in Windsor), while the Level 6 provincials are the following weekend in Dorchester.
The provincials serve as a nationals qualifying competition for the women’s Level 10 National Open division, where TRYumph’s Hanna Nixon (currently ranked #2 in the province) will seek to join Lalonde as a hometown representative.
Ottawa will welcome several more provincial qualifier meets in the coming months, including Feb. 16-17 at Nepean-Corona, Feb. 22-24 at Tumblers, and Mar. 1-3 at OGC.
Competing abroad, Ontario tour team members Myra Fauchon of TRYumph Gymnastics Academy and Ella Martel from Nepean-Corona helped their province to team titles in their respective L6 and L8 categories at the Jan. 10-14 California Grand Invitational in Anaheim.