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Elfi Schlegel

Elfi's Competitive Results
1976 Milk Meet: 4th AA
1976 CAN v FRG (Jr): 1st AA
1977 Chunichi Cup: 4th AA
1977 Canadian Nationals: 2nd AA
1977 Moscow News: 12th AA
1977 Riga International: 13th AA
1977 Ontario Cup: 5th AA
1978 Canadian Nationals: 1st AA
1978 Commonwealth Games: 1st AA; 1st Team
1978 CAN v BUL (Winnipeg): 2nd AA
1978 CAN v BUL (Mississauga): 1st AA
1978 Shanghai International: 3rd V
1978 World Championships: 22nd AA, 8th Team
1979 Canadian Nationals: 2nd AA
1979 Pan American Games: 1st Team; 3rd AA, 2nd V, 2nd UB (tie)
1980 Antibes International: 5th AA
1980 Orleans International: 3rd AA
1980 World Cup: 20th AA (injured), 3rd V (tie)
1981 CAN v NOR: 1st AA
1981 Ennia Gold Cup: 5th AA, 4th V, 4th UB, 2nd BB
1981 Hunt International: 1st AA
1981 Canadian Nationals: AA
1981 World Championships: 10th Team, 30th AA
1983 World Championships: 10th Team
1983 University Games: 5th AA
1984 Canadian Nationals: 5th AA
1984 NCAA Championships: 4th AA
1985 NCAA Championships: 3rd AA
1986 NCAA Championships: 10th AA
Elfi (c. 1980)
Elfi training while her parents,
Peter and Vlasta, look on
Elfi at home (1978)
a daring acrobat
on the beam
vaulting at 79 Pan Ams
(c. 1980)
Elfi's high bar somi from eagle grip
1980 World Cup
and falling, resulting
with a broken toe
1981 World Championships
(c. 1980)

When one thinks of Canadian gymnastics, a certain name instantly comes to mind. Elfi Schlegel. Her name in itself symbolizes the image that she projected to audiences, fans, and the media during her career, which was a tiny, elfin sprite who charmed the world with her darling Shirley Temple qualities. Coupled with factors such as the presence of a tough competitive spirit and daring acrobatics, Elfi reached great heights during her illustrious gymnastics career and, en route, earned a well deserved place for herself in history books.

Born to Swiss immigrants in Toronto, Ontario on May 17, 1964, Elfi grew up in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, where she began gymnastics at age 7 under coaches, Geoff and Mary-Lea Palmer, at the Xoces-Eagles Gymnastics Club. Elfi thrived quickly under the Palmer’s coaching and made her international debut at the tender age of 12, where she placed fourth all-around at the 1976 Milk Meet behind Montreal Olympians, Ungureanu of Romania, Bieger of West Germany, and Poludkova of Czechoslovakia. Showing an advanced capacity for learning difficult tricks, Elfi immediately stood out among her competitors during the early stages of her career. She instantly became a media darling, fitting the mould perfectly of what the sporting world was seeking in a gymnast during the 1970s.

In 1977, Canada’s bright new star traveled abroad extensively and placed 4th all-around at the prestigious annual Chunichi Cup meet in Japan, 12th all-around at the Moscow News, and 13th all-around at the Riga International, competing against the likes of future Soviet legends, Yelena Mukhina, Natalia Shaposhnikova and Maria Filatova.

After going head-to-head with Surrey, British Columbia’s, 1976 Olympian, Karen Kelsall, young Elfi came close to standing atop the highest place on the medal rostrum in her first senior National Championships, where she placed a commendable second all-around.

1978 was an enormously successful year for Elfi who, at the Canadian National Championships, performed even more magnificently than she did the previous year and earned the coveted title of Canadian Champion.

In early August, the Canadian team traveled to Edmonton, Alberta to compete at the Commonwealth Games, where gymnastics was being contested for the first time. Teamed with veteran, Karen Kelsall, the up-and-coming Monica Goermann of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and beam beauty, Sherry Hawco, of Cambridge, Ontario, this incredible quartet put together a series of world-class routines to win the team gold medal, well ahead of England and New Zealand. In fact, the Canadians cleaned up the all-around awards with Goermann and Hawco tying for second behind Schlegel, and Kelsall placing fourth after a fall on her final event, the floor exercise. Following the competition, Elfi voiced her pleasure with her performance, particularly on the uneven bars and floor exercise, where, on the latter, she successfully landed a double back somersault and scored her top mark of the day, a 9.70. Elfi told reporters that the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games were her primary objective and, although she competed well at this meet, many improvements still had to be made in order to reach the standards of the Soviets. A few months later, Strasbourg, France played host to the World Championships and, at her world debut, Elfi impressed judges and audiences alike with her graceful and difficult routines and placed a highly respectable 22nd all-around.

The Canadian team performed equally as well the following year at the Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they won the gold medal. Elfi continued her successful streak by winning the all-around bronze medal, the silver on vault, and tying for the silver on the uneven bars with a Cuban gymnast.

The meet ultimately belonged to teammate, Goermann, who walked away with three gold medals, including the all-around title. Later that year at the World Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, Elfi led her inexperienced team, who was missing mainstays Hawco and Kelsall, to a 10th place finish and improved on her previous year’s all-around ranking by moving up two notches to 20th. All in all, 1979 was a huge success for the Canadian gymnasts, who were proving that they could reach the standards of excellence set by the world powers of women’s artistic gymnastics.

The highlight of Elfi’s international career transpired in the Olympic year, 1980. Having the splendid opportunity of performing on home soil at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens for the renowned World Cup event, Elfi did not disappoint her many fans and fellow Torontonians. After dislocating a toe on her left foot following an awkward fall from the uneven bars during her unique high bar somersault from eagle grip position during the all-around final, Elfi iced her toe and performed heroically with maximum difficulty on her final two events, beam and floor exercise. Undaunted, she rallied back in fine form during event finals and broke the history records of Canadian gymnastics by winning the bronze medal on the vault.

Showing a complex full-twisting Tsukahara and a laid out Tsukahara respectively, Elfi succeeded in becoming Canada’s first ever medal winner in such a high ranked FIG competition. Had the boycott by western nations not occurred during the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, perhaps Canada would have seen their first Olympic medal contender competing for the top laurels among the world’s best.

Many gymnasts retired from competition following the Olympic boycott and, although Elfi’s Olympic dreams were dashed, she persevered, knowing that she still had more gymnastics inside her. Competing overseas at the highly acclaimed 1981 Ennia Gold Cup, Elfi impressed spectators with her many risky elements and would have finished among the medalists if not for a rare fall on the floor exercise. Finishing 5th in the all-around, Elfi excelled in the event finals by winning the silver medal on the balance beam.

Competing at the World Championships later that year in Moscow, Elfi once again performed consistently for Canada by placing among the top 36 competitors during preliminary competition and advanced to the all-around final, where she ranked a respectable 30th.

After a lull in 1982, Elfi competed at the 1983 World University Games, where she achieved a 5th place finish in the all-around final. That same year, Elfi enrolled at the University of Florida and competed as a Gator under head coach, Ernestine Weaver. Elfi’s decision to compete for Florida was in part based on working with Weaver, who competed in two Olympic Games for Canada as Ernestine Russell, in 1956 and 1960. Weaver draws the notable distinction of being the first woman gymnast to compete for Canada at an Olympic Games and was Canadian Champion nine times over. Under Weaver, Elfi and her fellow Gators placed third during the 1984-1985 season and, individually, Elfi culminated her NCAA career with a bronze medal in the all-around. She also out-tumbled all competitors on the floor exercise, where she unleashed a roundoff, flip flop, piked arabian step-out, roundoff, flip flop, double back; proceeded with a roundoff, flip flop, double pike and capped her routine with a roundoff, flip flop, double twist.

Elfi at 2000 Canadian Olympic Trials
with 1988 Olympian, Monica Covacci

Although Elfi competed strong and finished 5th at the 1984 Canadian National Championships, speculation exists that her participation at the Los Angeles Olympic Games was disallowed due to the fact that she decided to compete for the U.S. collegiate program, which angered Canadian officials. Once again, Elfi persevered and, after completing her degree in telecommunications at Florida, began a career in broadcasting, where she boasts an impressive resume. Working as a commentator firstly for Canadian networks, CTV and CBC, Elfi offered her expertise at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. It was here where she caught the eye of NBC executives and, in early 1992, signed a contract with the network and went on to commentate for them at the 1992 summer and winter Olympic Games, as well as the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. As gymnastics is among the most popular and widely viewed events of the Olympic Games by the American public, it is certainly a special honour for a Canadian to be chosen to represent the sport, as this is a position that is commonly reserved for former American Olympic stars.

Continuing to be dedicated to Canadian gymnastics, Elfi runs Schlegel’s Gym, located west of her hometown, Toronto, and was the announcer at the 2000 Gymnastic Challenge in Mississauga, Ontario.

In addition, she delighted Canada’s women’s gymnastics team by presenting them with their awards at the 2000 Olympic Trials. This gesture by Canada’s most famed gymnast surely inspired the team, who went on to show a truly phenomenal performance in Sydney.

Update (September 2001). Elfi Schlegel and her husband, 1996 Canadian Olympian Marc Dunn (volleyball), are proud new parents to Olivia Frances Dunn (born September 19, 2001), Cameron Alexander Dunn (born November 25, 2002) and Benjamin Peter Dunn (born August 31,2005).

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