|At the 2000 Olympic Trials|
Name: Crystal Gilmore
Date of Birth: April 8, 1983
Coaches: Shawn Healey (formerly Elvira Saadi and Vladimir Kondratenko)
Club: TAISO (formerly Cambridge Kips)
Favourite Event: Floor Exercise
The 2001 World Championships marked the end of Crystal Gilmore's formal career as a High Performance athlete in Canada, but her unselfish contribution to the country's national program will not soon be forgotten. An Olympian and World Championship team member, Gilmore was one of the critical contributors to the re-birth of Canadian women's gymnastics in the late 1990's, leading up to the spirited ninth-place finish at the Sydney Olympics. Her career was not without difficulties, however, and few may recall that a 13 year-old Gilmore walked away from the sport entirely, only to find the passion for the sport rekindled during her time away.
Born April 8, 1983, Gilmore began gymnastics under coaches Karen Maine, Leanne Creaser, Rod Hounsell, and Jennifer Blake. By the time she had reached the national level, however, Gilmore had moved to the Cambridge Kips, where she was coached by 1972 and '76 Olympic team champion Elvire Saadi, along with assistant coach Vladimir Kondratenko. At that time, Cambridge was a fledgling club at the national level, and Gilmore was one of the early stars, along with teammates Yvonne and Chantelle Tousek to put her club on the map.
1995 Highlights: The year 1995 marked a significant change in the fledgling career of twelve-year-old Gilmore. In April, Gilmore claimed victory at the provincial championships in the novice 3 category. Later that year, she made the jump to the junior level with a promising eighth-place finish at December's Elite Canada.
For Gilmore, her finish at Elite Canada was, "a huge surprise, because I had just moved up from the provincial stream. I never competed novice national or junior at a national championships." Gilmore's rapid rise pointed towards greater success in the coming years, yet the young star was not satisfied.
1996 Highlights: As her Cambridge Kips' teammate Yvonne Tousek moved closer to competing in her first Olympic Games, 13 year-old Gilmore decided to take a break from gymnastics, opting instead for the normal life of a teenager. "I decided that I wanted to take a break from gymnastics," Gilmore told Gymn.ca, "I went into diving, where I competed a few times and had a lot of fun! Over that summer, I was able to go to my cottage, waterski, go tubing, and do some things that I really enjoyed."
During her short stint away from the sport, Gilmore was also able to make a significant contribution to the sports program at Jacob Hespeler Secondary School in Cambridge, where she was a grade 9 student. "I took part in some school sports that fall - I was on the winning girls football team and played field hockey as well as track and field and cross country running." As the year wore on, however, Gilmore experienced a change of heart. "I soon realized that a life without gymnastics just wasn't for me, and I wanted to go back." By October, a rejeuvinated Gilmore returned to the gym, this time "without any expectations. I had a different perspective on where I wanted to go with the sport, and wanted to enjoy myself." Beginning with only a few hours of training per week, Gilmore enjoyed rapid success during her return to the gym. Within a short time, she had recovered most of her gymnastics repertoire, and was back to the rigours of full-time training.
1997 Highlights: Gilmore's inactivity on the national level meant she no longer qualified as a High Performance athlete in Canada. As a result, she was ineligible for junior national competition throughout most of 1997. Instead, Gilmore returned to the Ontario championships, this time to qualify for Ontario's Open team to the national championships in May. There, Gilmore helped her team to a first-place finish, while taking third-place all-around in the individual competition.
December's Elite Canada would be one of the most important meets of Gilmore's career. Not only was she making a return to top-level competition for the first time in two years, but she also had to contend with competing against the best seniors in the nation, athletes who had the experience of competing at the World Championships and Olympic Games. Undaunted, Gilmore competed well, finishing 14th overall and earning herself a position on Canada's High Performance roster.
1998 Highlights: Knowing she was successful in her return to gymnastics, Gilmore's career reached the watershed point in 1998. Beginning with a three-event final performance at the Bluewater International in March, the 15 year-old went on to blow the Canadian gymnastics community away with a silver medal finish in the senior competition at the 1998 Canadian Championships. Heading into the last rotation of the competition, the highly inexperienced Gilmore was even in a position to win the gold medal, but a last-minute surge by Katie Rowland earned her the gold over Gilmore, 73.762 to 73.650. In total, Gilmore walked away from the championships with five medals, including a gold on the floor exercise, where she scored as high as a 9.800 under modified scoring.
Not surprisingly, Gilmore's breakthrough put her in position for several prestigious international assignments. Later that spring, she competed abroad for the first time at the World Youth Olympic Festival, a competition held in Moscow for some of the world's top young athletes. There, Gilmore finished 39th all-around, while helping her Canadian team to eighth place overall.
If Gilmore's first international experience had been a daunting one, the pressure was about to be turned up a notch. In July, Gilmore was given the honour of competing in front of the world as a member of Canada's Commonwealth Games team. Along with the more experienced Rowland and Veronique Leclerc, Canada fielded a young team that included Gilmore and her future Olympic teammates Emilie Fournier and Lise Leveille. The multi-sport event was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, taking Gilmore and her teammates farther from home than they had ever been. In front of the cameras and international media, Gilmore competed well enough for a bronze with the team and 7th all-around. She also impressed onlookers with her difficulty, which included a ff to full-twist on beam, which she was one of the first Canadian to compete.
1999 Highlights: Gilmore competed successfully at the Bluewater International, finishing fourth in the all-around. She also contributed to a team gold medal at the USA vs Canada team challenge at Seneca, performing solid routines on three events (uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise). An injury kept her out of the Canadian Championships that year, but she did recover in time to make the Pan American Games team as first reserve. Another injury kept her from competing for a spot at the 1999 World Championships.
2000 Highlights: After recovering from her 1999 injuries, Gilmore again had a successful season. Another strong showing at Bluewater (7th all-around, third on floor exercise) as well as a sixth place finish on floor at the Moscow Stars competition set her up well for the Canadian Championships and Olympic trials, where she finished fifth and seventh respectively. These results earned her the first alternate position for the Olympic team that traveled to Sydney. Once in Sydney, following an injury to teammate Emilie Fournier during podium training, Gilmore was upgraded to a competing team member. She was called upon to perform on the balance beam, where she competed arguably the best routine in her career, nailing every element including her back handspring to full twisting back tuck!
2001 Highlights: Injuries kept Gilmore out of many meets early in 2001, including the Canadian Championships. However she committed to training for the 2001 World Championships where she competed with her teammates in Ghent, Belgium, helping the team finish 10th.
Crystal Gilmore, a 2000 Olympian who initially retired from the national team in 2002 (and from competitive gymnastics a year later after choosing not to complete her NCAA career at the University of Utah) is on the comeback trail. At the 2005 Canadian Championships, she competed with her Nova Scotia team (where she moved to be with her fiancé at the time, men's national team member David Kikuchi) in the national open category - her first meet in over three years. She finished fourth in the all-around and second in the floor exercise in the 16 and over category. Later that year she re-entered the high performance category with a ninth place finish at Elite Canada. This qualified her for the 2006 Commonwealth Games team trials in February of 2006, where Gilmore wanted to show that she was serious about a return to international competition. She came close to returning to the competition where she had made her senior international debut eight years ago, being named first alternate to the team. Shortly after this meet, she competed at the Gymnix International, where she made three event finals and winning gold on the uneven bars. At the Commonwealth Games trials and Gymnix, Gilmore was accompanied by her coach from TAISO, Shawn Healey, but it's worth noting that she was also being assisted at both meets by former coach Elvira Saadi from the Cambridge Kips.
At the 2006 Canadian Championships, Gilmore performed very well in the preliminaries, qualifying for the apparatus finals in the vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise events. Several mistakes dropped her to 12th place in the all-around finals, but she recovered well in the apparatus finals, taking bronze on the vault and finishing a close fourth in the floor exercise.
So far in her comeback, Gilmore has shown the ability to perform most of the skills that helped her make the 2000 Olympic team. On the vault she shows a strong Yurchenko-full and a handspring piked front. On the uneven bars she throws a Jaeger and a double layout dismount. On floor exercise is where she shows some of her best work, tumbling an Arabian double front, a 1 ˝ twist through to a 2 ˝ twist, and a double pike last line. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games trials, Gilmore indicated that her goal was to make it back to the Olympics in 2008, where her leadership and experience could be very valuable to the Canadian team.
Crystal has once again retired. She now coaches.
For an interview we did with Gilmore in 2001, click here.