|Ponce at '02 World Trials|
Despite not being able to compete at the 1999 Elite Canada competition due to injury, Jholeen Ponce was selected by National Team coach Andrei Rodionenko to compete as a senior in the year 2000 - and with good reason. Ponce had made great strides in the last few years and had some of the most difficult routines of the junior-aged senior gymnasts. On floor, she tumbled a full-in tucked to open and a double pike to close; her vaults were a Hristakieva and a Yurchenko-full. On bars she competed skills such as a Tkatchev, Pak salto, and a double layout, while her beam routine included a ff-layout-ff series, a wolf jump full turn facing out, and a double tuck dismount. Another of Ponce's strengths was the great flexibility she showed in her straddle jumps on beam and floor.
Coached by Robert Persechino and Marie Helène Desmarais at the Panthers Gymnastics Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ponce got her first taste of international competition in her home town at the 1998 Pacific Alliance Championships, where she competed as a member of Canada's "B" exhibition team. Injuries have sidelined her off and on since then, but the year 2000 was a good one for her. In April of 2000, after competing at both the Gymnix International (where she represented team Canada) and the Bluewater International (where she competed for her club), she represented her country abroad for the first time at the prestigious Hungarian Invitational where she captured the bronze medal on floor exercise! She went on to finish 18th all-around at the 2000 Canadian championships - not bad for a 15 year-old competing in her first ever senior national competition.
Ponce's talent earned her a spot on Canada's team for the Junior Pan American Championships in Brazil, where she helped her team to a 4th place finish and she herself advanced to event finals in the floor exercise, where she finished 7th. In the individual all-around, she finished 17th.
Ponce was unfortunately unable to compete at Elite Canada, which closely followed the junior Pan American Championships. This must have been disappointing for Ponce, as the meet was held in her home province of Manitoba. Absent from most of the big spring meets in 2001, Ponce was only able to compete on vault and beam at the Canadian championships in New Brunswick (making event finals in the latter). After not being selected to try out for the world championship team, many fans wondered if they had seen the last of this talented athlete. In December, Ponce competed again at the Elite Canada competition - her first appearance there since 1997. Although inconsistencies plagued her during the all-around, she did not disappoint on the vault, where her difficult Khorkina (the highest start value vault shown) and Yurchenko-full earned her a medal in the event finals. She showed well-constructed routines on the other events as well, including a a giant-full to giant 1 1/2 to Tkatchev and a Pak salto on bars.
Ponce successfully petitioned to be a member of the senior High Performance programme for another season. Should she be able to stay injury free and compete to her potential, future team berths could definitely be within her grasp.
2002 Higlights: Ponce entered the 2002 Canadian Championships as the home province favourite, and did not disappoint. Limited to only vault and beam due to injury, Ponce took the gold medal on vault in the apparatus finals with her Khorkina 1 and Yurchenko-full. This result earned her an automatic berth to the selection meet for the individual apparatus world championships. At the selection meet, she competed on vault and balance beam (having qualified there through a provincial screening activitity). Although she stood her vaults up well, errors on beam kept her from making the team. Shortly following this event, Ponce traveled to Slovenia to pariticpate in the Siska International. An unfortunate injury sustained on the vault during training prevented her from competing. Ponce returned home to Canada, and is scheduled to have ACL surgery in the spring. Though not listed on the 2003 High Performance roster, Ponce may return to competition in the fall.
Written by: Christopher Scott