Springing into Whitehorse

Four Rankin gymnasts wear Nunavut colours at AWG

Desiree Autut, from left, Jayda Pilakapsi, Annette Paniyuk and Shanti Dias of Rankin Inlet.

Four members of Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights Gymnastics) are brimming with excitement over travelling to the Yukon this week.

Competing in gymnastics at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) from Rankin are Desiree Autut, 16, Jayda Pilakapsi, 12, Annette Paniyuk, 11, and Shanti Dias, 9.

Gymnastics coach Lisa Kresky said the four young athletes from the club's competitive group are counting the days until the Games.

She said the AWG selections were made in-house from the club, based on the athletes' skill requirements for the AWG and their work ethic.

 "We look at their skill level, especially as it pertains to the AWG, their work ethic, as in how hard they're training, and their dedication to the overall program," said Kresky. "This will be our third time at the Games, and we saw huge improvements with our athletes' performances during the first two games they participated in.

"The truth is, we're still nowhere near contending for medals because athletes in some of the other clubs are training 20-to-30 hours per week in a permanent facility. "But, we've come a long way from the first two years at the games -- a huge progression, really -- and we're excited and looking forward to progressing even further during the next two years."

Kresky said while her four gymnasts realize they probably won't be winning any medals in the Yukon, that hasn't dampened their enthusiasm for participating one little bit. If anything, she said, it motivates them even more.

"We make our own personal goals that we go out and try to reach. "So, even though we know we aren't in contention this year because we don't have the facilities or the time in the gym, our girls are really motivated to do well and achieve the personal goals they've set for this competition.

"They know if they keep working hard, they'll get there eventually. "This is another building year, and we've got better each year in the past, so we'll continue working hard and hoping to improve."

Kresky said many of her athletes help out a lot to keep the gymnastics program running smoothly. She said she looks to the gymnasts who have been in the program for awhile to help mentor the younger athletes coming behind them.

 "We're very excited about the track suits we have coming in for the games this year. "Everyone had input into what they would look like, and then I designed the suits and sent them to the company to be made. "We did a take on the Nunavut flag for our gymnastics suits and they look amazing."