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"Train hard and have fun doing it, but make every turn count."

Heather Purnell

About Heather

Full Name: Heather Mary Purnell
Date of Birth: November 5th, 1986
Birthplace: Grace Hospital in Ottawa
Club: Ottawa Gymnastics Centre
Coaches: Tobie Goreman, Lori Iurello, and Peter Grozdanovic
Training Hours per Week: 22
Favourite Apparatus: Floor
Least Favourite Apparatus: Beam ("because it's scary")
Most Memorable Competitions: 1999 Nationals (B.C.) 1st AA and Florida 2000 (Gasparilla Classic) placed 2nd AA
Favourite Gymnasts: Kate Richardson and Elena Zamolodchikova
Future Competitive Goals: Worlds, Olympics, Pan Am Games, US Scholarship
Hobbies: Swimming, dancing, boating, watching t.v, waterskiing
Favourite Foods: Pasta and grains
Favourite Music: Pop and alternative
Skills Training: Layout tsuk-full vault, layout-layout on beam, full-out on floor
Interesting Facts: "My sister is a national level sprinter. My mom was a pro golf and squash player and my dad was a rough rider. My brother Chris is one of the Designer Guys on the T.V. show of the same name. I love traveling and competing. I live in the country and travel 40 minutes to gym every day. I started gymnastics late (age 7). I started competing for my school in grade 2. My first coach was Joan Honeywell."
Heather's Competitive Results
1998 Ontario Provincials, Novice: 2nd AA, 1st UB
1998 Canadian Championships, Novice: 1st Team, 1st UB, 4th AA
1998 Elite Canada, Junior: 9th AA
1999 Elite Ontario, Novice: 2nd AA, 3rd BB, 2nd FX
1999 Canadian Championships, Novice: 1st Team, 1st AA, 2nd UB, 2nd FX
1999 Elite Canada, Junior: 2nd AA, 2nd BB, 2nd FX
2000 Bluewater International, Junior: 3rd Team, 5th AA, 2nd FX
2000 Elite Ontario, Junior: 1st AA, 2nd V, 1st FX
2000 Canadian Championships, Junior: 1st AA, 3rd UB, 1st BB, 1st FX
2000 Gymnastic Challenge: 9th Team, 20th AA
2001 Buckeye Classic: 10th AA, 3rd FX
2001 Spring Cup, Senior: 1st AA
2001 Elite Ontario, Senior: 2nd AA, 2nd UB, 2nd BB, 1st FX, 4th V
2001 Canadian Championships, Senior: 4th AA, 3rd UB, 7th BB, 6th FX
2001 Pan American Championships, Senior: 7th Team, 8th FX
2001 Elite Canada, Senior: 6th AA, 1st UB, 5th FX
2002 Gymnix International: 10th AA
2002 Wild Rose Invitational: 8th AA, 8th V, 4th UB
2002 Pacific Alliance Championships: 4th T, 9th AA, 3rd FX
2002 Canadian National Championships: 2nd AA, 2nd UB, 4th FX
2002 Commonwealth Games: 3rd T, 5th AA, 6th FX
2002 Elite Canada: 1st AA, 1st V, 6th UB, 3rd BB, 7th FX

2003 American Cup: 7th AA, 5th V, 7th UB, 5th BB, 6th FX
2003 Jurassic Classic: 1st V, 1st UB, 1st FX
2003 Pacific Challenge: 3rd T, 16th AA 2003 Pan Am/World team trials: 1st AA
2003 Pan Am Games: 2nd T, 11th AA, 5th V, 5th FX
2003 World Championships: 11th T
2004 Olympic Test Event: 6th T
2004 Pacific Alliance Championships: 4th T, 5th AA, 6th BB, 2nd V
2004 Canadian Championships, Senior: 2nd AA, 2nd V, 5th UB, 5th BB, 2nd FX
2004 Olympic Trials: 3rd AA
2004 Olympic Games: 10th T, 40th AA (prelim), 17th V (prelim), 21st FX (prelim)
2004 Elite Canada: 1st AA, 1st V, 3rd UB, 8th BB, 3rd FX
2005 USA-CAN-MEX: 2nd T, 2nd AA, 3rd V, 6th UB, 9th BB, 1st FX
Purnell lived her Olympic dream in Athens

Heather Purnell is the 2000 Canadian junior all-around champion. She trains in the nation's capitol at the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre, which has to be considered one of the strongest up and coming clubs in the country. She is coached by Tobie Goreman, Lori Iurello, and Peter Grozdanovic.

Purnell made her first appearance in national competition in 1998, where she easily qualified for the Ontario women's novice team that went on to win the team title at the national championships in Hamilton. At that competition, Purnell finished an impressive 4th place in the all-around competition, tying for first place on the uneven bars.

In December of 1998, Purnell finished 9th all-around in the junior division at Elite Canada. This result easily qualified her to the junior High Performance programme, yet she and her coaches decided to remain in the novice category for one more year - and this decision paid off. After finishing second at the 1999 Elite Ontario competition, Purnell lead her Ontario novice team to another team title at the national championships in Burnaby, British Columbia. Purnell's consistency earned her the highest all-around score during the team competition, as well as the all-around title.

Her strong finishes in her final year of novice competition set up Purnell well for her first full year of junior competition. In her second Elite Canada competition in 1999, she finished a strong second in the all-around competition. As a result she entered the 2000 season with confidence, and she showed an increasing skill level on every event (tucked Tsukahara-full on vault, tucked 1/2 in 1/2 out off bars, a 10.0 FIG start value on floor). At the 2000 Bluewater International, Purnell qualified for three event finals (vault, bars, and floor), with her best result being a second place finish on floor. She also finished 5th in the all-around competition and 3rd in the team competition with teammate Melanie Rocca.

Purnell continued her competitive momentum with back to back victories in the all-around at Elite Ontario and the Canadian championships. Her junior win at the 2000 nationals was significant, as it made her the first gymnast since Theresa Wolf in 1991 to win back-to-back novice and junior all-around titles. Winning the junior national title gave Purnell her biggest competitive challenge yet - a position on the Canadian junior team at the 2000 Gymnastic Challenge in Mississauga. Purnell performed solidly, finishing 20th in the all-around in a very strong field, while her Canadian junior team placed 9th.

At '01 Elite Ontario

Injury has held Purnell back and she had to miss some key Canadian meets, including 2000 Elite Canada which would have been her first meet as a senior. She showed that she was ready to return to competition at the 2001 Buckeye Classic in February (one of the largest club meets in the United States) where she finished 10th all-around in her age group, and 3rd on floor exercise. She followed this up with a first place all-around finish at Burlington's Spring Cup competition. Here Purnell showed some new skills, including a double pike, front-full to tucked front-full, and 2 1/2 twist on floor and a new combination of aerial walkover to aerial cartwheel on beam. In May at the Canadian championships in St. John, New Brunswick, Purnell had a very strong senior debut, finishing 4th in the all-around - the highest ranking junior aged senior competitor.

In the fall of 2001, Purnell had her first chance to represent her country internationally outside of Canada. Her first opportunity was supposed to be at a USA vs Canada junior dual meet in Texas, but after the tragic events of September 11th, the event was cancelled. About a month later, Purnell travelled to Mexico for the Pan American Championships, where she performed well enough to qualify for the floor exercise event final. This was an impressive result, as many of the other countries in this meet were being represented by current world championship team members.

In December, Purnell was ready to challenge the top Canadians again at home at the Elite Canada competition in Toronto. A fall on her piked front beam mount marred what was otherwise an outstanding all-around effort for Purnell. She rebounded in the apparatus finals by winning gold on the uneven bars (giant-full to Gienger, overshoot to dead handstand, stuck 1/2 in 1/2 out dismount) and finishing 5th on the floor exercise. Purnell showed new choreography here (expressive as always) and reworked tumbling (putting her double pike at the end of her routine and performing consecutive layout front-fulls in her second line).

Purnell continues to improve her form, difficulty, and presentation with every competition. Now entering her first year of senior FIG age eligibility, Purnell has a great opportunity to be named to Canada's most prestigious international assignments in the coming years.

Bronze at the '02Pacific Alliance
Photo by Don Johnson

2002 Update: 2002 would be a very busy and successful year for Purnell. In March she began her international season at the Gymnix International in Montreal, where she debuted a few new elements (tucked Yurchenko-full on vault and a piked full-in on floor) en route to a 10th place finish in the all-around. Immediately following this, she traveled to Calgary for the Jurassic Classic dual meet against a very strong junior team from the United States. Following her successes at these two competitions, Purnell was named to the Canadian team for the Pacific Alliance Championships in Vancouver. Purnell gained more valuable international experience at this event, and despite a fall off the balance beam, she earned Canada’s highest all-around ranking with her 9th place finish. She also earned a spot in the floor exercise finals where her well executed routine earned her a bronze medal – Canada’s only individual medal in the women’s competition.

Purnell’s Pacific Alliance results made her a strong contender for the national title at the end of May in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A strong performance there earned her a silver medal in the all-around as well as an automatic berth on the Commonwealth Games team. Purnell continued to improve as the Games approached, particularly on vault where she upgraded to both a layout Yurchenko-full and Yurchenko 1 ˝. At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, Purnell helped Canada earn a very close bronze medal behind Australia and England. She also qualified for the all-around finals where she finished an impressive 5th.

With the world individual apparatus championships approaching, and being in her first year of senior FIG eligibility, Purnell was one of the favourites to represent Canada that fall in Debrecen, Hungary. But after a long and successful competitive season to that point, Purnell and her coaches made the decision to not seek a berth on the world team in order to focus on training for 2003. A confident Purnell entered December’s Elite Canada competition in Gatineau, Quebec as a clear favourite, and a four for four showing there earned her the all-around title. There she debuted a few new skills including a switch ring leap on beam and a piked Luconi second vault to go with her now well consolidated Yurchenko 1 ˝.

Fun at the 2003 Pan Ams
despite illness
and heat exhaustion
Photo by Grace Chiu

2003 Updates: In early March, Purnell had the opportunity to represent Canada at the American Cup competition, where she served as a replacement for injured teammate Gael Mackie. Purnell took advantage of this opportunity and performed very well, hitting four for four en route to 7th place. Later that same month she returned to the US to compete with her teammates at the Pacific Challenge competition against the United States and Australia. Purnell helped her team finish third behind two talented American squads and ahead of the favoured Australians. She was on a roll, which was supposed to continue at both the 8-country tournament in the Netherlands as well as the Canadian Championships in Saskatoon in May. Unfortunately a wrist injury would take her out of both events – but that did little to affect her preparations for the Pan American Games and World Championships trials in Toronto in July. At the trials, Purnell more than solidified her position on the national team by taking first place overall after both days of competition with a very impressive 8 for 8 showing. Her win earned her an automatic berth on both teams.

At the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, Purnell performed very well in the team competition, helping her team to a silver medal over the favoured Brazilians as well as qualifying herself to the individual all-around finals. The lingering illness from the extremely hot conditions in the DR continued to affect Purnell as the team headed to the World Championships. The Canadian women’s team delivered a gutsy performance in Anaheim under the circumstances, Purnell in particular, who earned 9.0 + scores on vault and floor, as well as one of her best ever routines on the uneven bars while helping the team secure an Olympic berth with an 11th place team showing. An unfortunate fall from the balance beam near the end of her set kept her out of the all-around finals (Purnell was named an alternate for that portion of the competition).

With the Canadian women securing an Olympic berth, Purnell will continue to work towards reaching her ultimate goal next year.

Learn more about Purnell from this exclusive interview.

Written by: Christopher Scott
Updated 2003.14.09

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