|'01 Elite Canada|
Abby Pearson, born July 2 1983, is undoubtedly one of the most talented and hard working Canadian gymnasts of the last quadrennium. Even though she has yet to make a world or Olympic team, Pearson has earned the admiration and respect from the Canadian gymnastics community through her efforts to push the envelope of difficulty on every event. In the 1997 to 2000 Olympic cycle, Pearson was the first Canadian gymnast to consistently perform the Yurchenko layout 1 1/2 twist on vault, and was also the only Canadian to compete four tumbling passes of at least a D value in the same floor routine (arabian double front, 2 1/2 twist to punch front, triple twist, and double pike). She was also the first Canadian ever to perform a Rulfova on the balance beam - and she did this in 1995 when she was still a novice!
Pearson has been coached her entire career by Dave and Elizabeth Brubaker, first at the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia, and since June of 2000 at the Burlington Gymnastics Club. She made her first appearance on the national scene in 1995, where after winning the Elite Ontario novice title, she went on to finish 3rd in the novice category at the Canadian championships in Victoria, B.C. The following year, Pearson moved up to the junior High Performance category. Despite having one of the most difficult programs in Canada, Pearson was hampered by injuries and inconsistency and had a less than stellar result at the 1996 Canadian championships. She rebounded from this disappointment in fine style by winning the 1996 Elite Canada competition in the junior division - which was the first national competition to use the 1997-2000 Code of Points.
As a result of her win at Elite Canada, Pearson entered the 1997 Canadian championships as a favourite to win the junior all-around title. While she showed some good work (including a Hristakieva on vault - the highest start valued vault in the junior women's competition), she struggled with consistency on beam and ended up in 5th place - in what has to be considered one of the strongest Canadian junior all-around fields in history (four of the top seven gymnasts went on to make the 2000 Olympic team).
In December of 1997, Pearson would make her most important jump yet with her first ever senior appearance at the Elite Canada competition in Montreal. There, she did not disappoint, finishing 4th in the all-around, the highest finish among the first year senior competitors. She unveiled a new floor routine to the music from the "Diamonds are Forever" commercials - and with that showed a new maturity in her choreography and presentation that really set her apart.
Pearson had her first taste of senior international competition at the 1998 Bluewater International, which was hosted by her club at the time. Competing against the likes of future double Olympic champion Elena Zamolodchikova from Russia, Pearson used this competition to demonstrate some of the skills that would set her apart from the rest within Canadian gymnastics: she debuted her arabian double front on floor and also showed her three other passes mentioned earlier; she attempted her Yurchenko 1 1/2 for the first time in competition (albeit unsuccessfully); and she dismounted the balance beam with an extremely difficult combination of round-off backhandspring triple twist.
As a result of her new world class difficulty, Pearson entered the 1998 Canadian championships as a favourite to place well. A disasterous first day of competition left her in 25th place, although she did come back fighting on the second day to move back up to 14th place. She also finished 2nd on vault. Although she did not place well enough to be eligible for any of the major team meets in 1998 (Pacific Alliance,World Youth Games, or Commonwealth Games), Pearson was still chosen by national coach Andrei Rodionenko to compete at the prestigious China Cup with fellow team members Sarah Deegan and Julie Beaulieu.
The last major meet of 1998 was Elite Canada, and there Pearson continued to push the envelope of difficulty. She proved that she could now perform the Yurchenko 1 1/2 on vault with consistency, and was the only gymnast in the competition to do so. She easily took first place on vault in this competition, but unfortunate errors on beam and floor dropped her down to 14th place yet again.
Despite some inconsistent performances, Pearson remained a strong contender for future Canadian teams based largely on her ability to throw a big vault. In 1999, she was selected to participate in the Canada vs. USA team challenge in Toronto, but due to back spasms was unable to do so. This injury hampered her at the Canadian championships in Burnaby where she finished 8th.
|'00 Olympic Trials|
Pearson entered the 2000 competitive season still aiming for an Olympic team berth. With the 1999 Pan American and world championship team members at an obvious advantage, any other gymnast wanting to break through would definitely need an edge - and for Pearson this edge was vault, where she consistently performed her Yurchenko 1 1/2 in every competition of the year. She also performed well on floor with a reworked routine (no more double arabian) that still had a 10.0 start value - not to mention mesmerizing choreography. Pearson entered the 2000 Canadian Olympic trials as a team contender based on her strongest two events, vault and floor. She competed less difficult routines on bars and beam than she had earlier in her career in an effort to increase her consistency. At the trials, Pearson performed exceptionally well on vault, earning the second highest combined score on that event. Unfortunately a fall on floor on the first day of competition and two falls off beam dropped her to 10th place overall. There would be no Olympics for Pearson in 2000.
|'01 Spring Cup|
Pearson entered the year 2001 as one of the most experienced Canadian gymnasts. With vaulting still being a weak event for the Canadian team, she would have been a logical contender for the 2001 world championship team based on her expertise on that event. However, various injuries and a growth spurt led to a 14th place all-around finish at the Canadian championships. Although she qualified for the vault finals there, she performed only a Hristakieva vault (worth a 9.4 in the new Code of Points) and was not selected to try out for the world championship team.
Pearson will now shift her focus to her collegiate career in the United States, having signed to compete for the University of Arizona in the fall of 2002. However she will still have one season left on the Canadian scene, and she is looking forward to competing at her final Canadian nationals, as well as her home club's Spring Cup event. Although she will be missed at home, her beautiful lines, elegance, and innovative choreography are sure to impress American audiences for the next few years as she embarks on the next chapter of her gymnastics career.
Written by: Christopher Scott