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Canada's 2002 Commonwealth Games teams for artistic gymnastics were named at the close of Nationals.

Joining Danielle Hicks and Heather Purnell, who both earned automatic bearths onto the team due to their top 2 AA placements at Nationals, are Vanessa Meloche and Kate Richardson. The Commonwealth Games will mark Richardson's return to major competition following back surgery in January.

The final spot will be determined between recent Pacific Alliance Championships team member Kylie Stone and 2001 World team member Jennifer Simbhudas.

Junior standout Gael Mackie will instead focus on an aggressive training schedule this summer, to perfect her repertoire of skills with longer term goals in mind.

Earning automatic bearths from their top 3 performances in the men's all around are Richard Ikeda, David Kikuchi, and Kyle Shewfelt. Added by the selection team are Grant Golding and Brandon O'Neill. 1999 World medallist Sasha Jeltkov is the alternate. Coaching the men in Manchester will be Takashi Kobayshi and Tak Kikuchi.


Vanessa Meloche
Photo by Ruth Judson

1. Jholeen Ponce, 9.15
2. Vanessa Meloche and Lydia Williams, 8.9
4. Danielle Hicks, 8.887
5. Jennifer Simbudhas, 8.85
6. Ashley Houghting, 8.75
7. Amelie Plante, 8.713
8. Aubrey Taylor, 8.60

1. Vanessa Meloche, 9.225
2. Heather Purnell, 8.950
3. Amanda Gering, 8.675
4. Aubrey Taylor, 8.550
5. Fanny Girard, 8.400
6. Ashley Houghting, 8.125
7. Lydia Williams, 8.05
8. Danielle Hicks, 7.700

1. Ashley Peckett, 9.025
2. Jennifer Simbudhas, 9.00
3. Danielle Hicks, 8.550
4. Melanie Rocca, 8.150
5. Julie-Ann Passy, 7.950
6. Tracy Rai and Patricia Clarke, 7.30
8. Julie Medeiros

1. Danielle Hicks
2. Teri Gibson and Breanne King, 8.725
4. Heather Purnell, 8.50
5. Jennifer Simbudhas
6. Patricia Clarke, 8.450
7. Julie-Ann Passy, 8.150
8. Vanessa Meloche, 7.750

For a detailed report of the senior women's EF, visit our report section.

Complete results expected soon at Gym Score Depot's nationals results site.


Richard Ikeda
Photo by Heather Maynez

Defending champion and national team veteran Richard Ikeda repeated as Canadian senior men's champion last night in a very closely contested competition. Ikeda earned consistent all-around scores during the two days of competition (52.875 on day one and 52.90 on day two) to take a very close win over Nova Scotia's David Kikuchi 105.775 to 105.720. Ikeda surprised himself with the win, telling GCG: "I honestly did not think I would wind up on top," and commenting on how his experience made the difference, given the current depth of the Canadian men's team: "I think my experience plays a big role now because there are a lot of guys who are really good. I'm performing better than ever at this point of my career. It's so close now you have to be on your game all the time."

Kikuchi also earned an automatic berth on the Commonwealth Games team with his result, as did third place finisher Kyle Shewfelt of Alberta who clearly demonstrated his improvements as an all-around gymnast by taking the highest all-around total on day two, 53.15, en route to a 105.35 total. Shewfelt, long known for his outstanding work on floor and vault, showed great improvement on high bar, where he scored 9.4 out of a 9.8 start value - the highest score of the meet on that event. Kikuchi showed his best work on pommel horse (8.95) and rings (9.30) as well as an improved showing on vault (9.02) compared to day one.

Finishing an outstanding fourth was Alberta's Brandon O'Neill, who began the season as a junior. O'Neill, the Pacific Alliance junior champion on floor and vault, did not disappoint on these events, earning an outstanding 9.6 on floor to earn the highest score of the day on that apparatus. His final all-around score of 105.095 was only seven tenths out of first place, a testament of how close the competition was.

Day one leader Grant Golding of Alberta, Canada's highest ranking gymnast at last year's world championships suffered very low scores on parallel bars (6.55) and high bar (7.95) to drop to 9th place on day two and 6th place overall with a combined 104.55 points. The current Pacific Alliance senior floor champion performed well on this event (9.2) but failed to score above 9.0 the remainder of the competition. Despite a poor second day of competition, his previous results and experience should still give him an excellent chance at team selection for one of the two final spots for the Commonwealth Games.

Rounding out the top 6 was Olympian Alexander Jeltkov of Quebec. Jeltkov, a former world medallist on high bar, actually earned his highest score on vault (9.4), but also scored above 9.0 on his best event both days of competition.

Other noteworthy results included Saskatchewan's Rhett Stinson who earned the top score on parallel bars (9.5 out of 9.8 start value). Stinson, who continues his recovery from ACL surgery last year, did not compete on all events. The top rings scorer was Brett Covey, a Canadian citizen who has lived and trained in the U.S.A for most of his life. Covey, who only competed on rings and high bar, scored an outstanding 9.65 out of a 10.0 start value on the former.

Junior men's all-around winners were also decided yesterday. Alberta's Adam Wong was outstanding to take the title, improving his day one all-around score by nearly two points to take the title with a combined 101.32 over Nova Scotia's Hugh Smith, who scored 98.125. Wong told GCG that he achieved his goal by winning this meet, and that he "entered the meet very prepared and hit all (his) routines." Alberta's Nathan Gafuik rounded out the top three, scoring 97.75.

For complete results, see Gym Score Depot's nationals results site.


Vault: Gael Mackie
Bars: Lisa Pattison
Beam: Laura-Ann Chong
Floor: Gael Mackie

Full results expected soon at Gym Score Depot's nationals results site.


Gemini's Danielle Hicks

Sixteen year-old Danielle Hicks claimed her first Canadian women's gymnastics title with an impressive 4-for-4 effort tonight. Hicks, who finished second all-around at last year's Elite Canada, took the highest score of the day on any apparatus, scoring a 9.650 on the floor exercise under modified judging (her routine was scored out of a 10.2) to help earn the title. Hicks is the second Canadian senior champion coached by 1980 Olympic champion Yelena Davydova. Davydova previously coached Sarah Deegan to the 1997 all-around title.

"I just canít believe it," Hicks told GCG. "I went in there and hit my four events. But I didnít think I had won. I wasnít expecting it. With the back injury I wasnít even sure I would do the beam but I pushed myself anyway and look where it got me."

Finishing second all-around was Pacific Alliance floor bronze medallist Heather Purnell. Purnell was also consistent throughout the day, hitting all four of her exercises to earn the second of two automatic Commonwealth Games team berths.

Although Quebec's Vanessa Meloche finished a credible third, she could have taken the title with a better beam effort. With two falls from the apparatus and a botched double back dismount resulting in a 6.800 score, Meloche was lucky to hold on to third place; however, her high ranking is a testament to her outstanding work on the other three events.

Finishing fourth was the Winstonettes Jennifer Simbhudas, the highest ranking athlete from the 2001 world championship team. Simbhudas, who won December's Elite Canada, fell on her uneven bars dismount, but fared well on vault and floor exercise to edge out Mississauga's Teri Gibson for fifth. Gibson, who struggled at Elite Canada, made a solid comeback to maintain her national championship ranking from a year ago.

One of the day's most interesting results came from Hamilton's Ashley Houghting, who finished ninth. Earlier this year, Houghting had missed selection to the High Performance programme, but moved up from an alternate position just weeks before the championships to earn full HP status, and now a top-ten ranking in the country.

Errors and inconsistency resulted in surprising finishes from some of Canada's more accomplished gymnasts. Pacific Alliance team members Amelie Plante, Lydia Williams, and Melanie Rocca all suffered numerous errors to finish 10th, 14th, and 17th, respectively, while world championship team members Ashley Peckett and Joelle Ouellette struggled to 12th and 22nd place.

For a detailed report of the senior women's AA, visit our report section.


Grant Golding
Photo by Don Johnson

Calgary's Grant Golding took the lead in the senior men's competition after day one with a consistent effort on all six apparatus. Golding, who took the gold medal on the floor exercise at the recent Pacific Alliance Championships, received scores over 9.0 on five of six events, highlighted by a 9.300 on the floor exercise, his top score of the day. Golding's performance puts the 22 year-old in excellent position to claim his first senior men's national championship (he won the junior title in 1998), which will be decided with another round of all-around competition on Friday.

ALTA's David Kikuchi

Finishing second on day one was Halifax's David Kikuchi, who scored a total of 52.950 points. Kikuchi, who has been hampered by a shoulder injury, had his best effort on the rings, where he scored a 9.200, the third highest score of the day on that event.

Defending national champion Richard Ikeda, 27, stands third after day one, just 0.075 behind Kikuchi. Ikeda, who represented Canada at the 1996 Olympics, took the top scores of the day on rings (9.500) and parallel bars (9.200), but had to count a disappointing 7.600 on the floor exercise. Injury forced Ikeda's younger brother Ken to participate in only one event, the pommel horse, but he made the best of his opportunity, taking the highest score of the day on the apparatus with an impressive 9.650 score.

First-year senior Brandon O'Neil had a fantastic day to finish fourth, ahead of a bevy of more experienced and decorated athletes. O'Neil, who won two gold medals for Canada in the junior competition at the Pacific Alliance Championships, used a 9.400 score on floor exercise (tied for first on the day) to catapult his total to an impressive 52.425. O'Neil is just 17 years old, and trains at Edmonton's Capital City Gymnastics Club, where he is coached by Ju and Liang Chen.

Canada's pair of 2000 Olympians and World Cup medallists found themselves in fifth and sixth after today's competition. For Kyle Shewfelt, the day was highlighted by a 9.750 (from a 9.9 start value) on vault and a 9.400 on floor exercise, his two best events, but he was undone by a 7.450 on rings. For Alexander Jeltkov, good results on high bar (9.000, 1st) and vault (9.250, 5th) were not enough to overcome weak performances on rings (8.400) and parallel bars (7.650) for the former Canadian champion.

Also notable were specialist performances by Rhett Stinson and Brett Covey, both of whom showed top form on selected events (Stinson on parallel bars, 9.200, 1st, and Covey on rings, 9.450, 2nd).


Omega's Gael Mackie claimed the first title of the championships with a dominant performance in the junior women's all-around competition. Mackie, the daughter of former Canadian Olympian Bill Mackie, took the top score on all events except the balance beam, where a fall "on" the beam on a tuck jump full dropped her score to an 8.350, good enough only for sixth place on the apparatus.

Placing second all-around was Sport Seneca's Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, last year's National Novice champion. Hopfner-Hibbs, who will not be age-eligible for senior FIG competition until 2005, was consistent throughout, taking the highest score of the evening on balance beam (8.950). Finishing just behind Hopfner-Hibbs was Marian's Lisa Pattison, who finished sixth all-around in the junior competition a year ago. Like the majority of competitors, Pattison had to count a fall on the balance beam, which marred her otherwise solid effort.

Falls also prevented Cambridge's Madison Ward from finishing higher. A botched full twist on balance beam and a touch down on a triple twist on floor exercise kept the reigning Elite Canada junior champion from challenging for silver, or even gold.

Quebec's Jessica Busque suffered a competition-ending knee injury on the floor exercise, while Ontario's Marci Bernholtz earned top-ten finishes on her only two events of the day, uneven bars and balance beam.

For a detailed report of the junior women's competition, visit our report section.


Ontario won the team competition followed by Quebec and Alberta. Jennifer Lezeu had the highest qualifying score, and apparently was the only athlete not to fall from the balance beam. Next step for the novice competitors are the all-around finals.

Ontario's athletes also swept the special awards:
Most dynamic vault: Jennifer Lezeu
Most original bars combination: Aisha Gerber
Most original beam choreography: Aimee Balderian
Most original floor choreography: Alannah Burns

The junior HP women compete tonight!


These will be Richard Ikeda's 17th (!) Canadian National Championships, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Richard recently told CBC that he's focused on helping Canada's attempt to qualify a full men's team to Athens.

Richard's brother, Ken Ikeda, is in Winnipeg but will likely not be competing. His father Mits reported this morning that Kenji will be getting shoulder surgery next month and will be out for 3 months. The Commonwealth Games are out for Ken.

Competing at these championships are siblings Owen and Gael Mackie. They are second generation elite gymnasts for Canada, their father Bill qualifying to Canada's 1968 and 1972 Olympic teams. Gael is a strong contender for the junior women's AA title.

Marci Bernholtz has an injured foot and therefore will not compete all four apparatus. She plans to compete bars, and beam is a possibility.

All photos courtesy of Grace Chiu.

MAY 19, 2002:

Calgary's Kylie Stone left for Winnipeg today. Due to a lingering back injury, she will at most compete only beam.

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