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ONTARIO National Open’s @ Vegas Cup 2003

The Vegas Cup is a fast paced, exciting, ‘be ready for anything’ type of competition, and our National Open Team deserve tremendous credit for handling it so well!! They arrived in Vegas on Thursday morning, however there was no access to training for two full days until the moment they warmed up for the competition on Saturday. They worked on their strength and flexibility training in the hotel Fitness Centre, although I believe it was all the sightseeing and shopping that really kept Team Ontario in tip top shape!! If there were a medal awarded for shopping, this group of talented athletes would leave all other competitors in the dust and take the GOLD. After 3 ½ straight hours in a mall, they were still ready for more!!

Besenthal won everything
in her age group

Photo by Grace Chiu

On the day of arrival, the entire Ontario delegation (Level 3 Team, Level 4 Team and National Open Team) of 18 athletes and 6 coaches were treated to tickets primarily funded by Gymnastics Ontario to Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystere” at Treasure Island hotel. The show was a magical start to the trip and a wonderful introduction to a possible career choice for some of our athletes in the future! After the show, the Ontario delegation had a chance to meet with Natasha Hallet (1992 Olympian - Flip Gym), Sebastian Fortier (Ottawa Gym Club) and Danielle Rodenkirchen (Sport Seneca), now artists – and stars - with Cirque du Soleil. Some of the former gymnasts went straight to Cirque after competing in Canada, while others took an NCAA scholarship in the United States and joined Cirque after graduation. ALL of them still love performing and have turned their passion into an interesting job!

The sights of the Las Vegas strip were incredible to say the least!! Team Ontario thoroughly enjoyed visiting The Bellagio, The Venetian, and the Aladdin. It was thrilling to experience a completely new world in each of these breathtaking hotels. The Ontario National Open athletes were given an exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ look at Cirque du Soleil’s water show “O” courtesy of Andre Vallerand. As a gymnast, Andre was a member of the Canadian National Team. As a coach he began his career in Quebec, but eventually moved to Ontario where he had tremendous success with young hot shots Stephen Bruyea and Leo Oka. When he retired from his National / High Performance coaching career Andre traveled the world as a talent scout for Cirque du Soleil. He now resides permanently in Las Vegas as one of the coaches for “O”.

Emilie Fournier
2000 Olympic Trials

“O” is the most unique form of entertainment you are ever likely to see – and definitely worth the price of an airline ticket to Vegas to see this phenomenal water show. The Ontario National Open’s were given a tour of the entire facility and met two former Gymnastic Ontario athletes Daniel Headecker (Sport Seneca) and Lisa Simes (Winstonettes), in addition to 2000 Olympian Emilie Fournier (Gymnix). All are flying high in “O” and loving every minute of it. It was interesting to see how they have used all of their gymnastics talent and training in a brand new format! Sincere and heartfelt thanks to Andre Vallerand from the entire Ontario National Open Team for his very generous attention!

On Saturday, it was time for The Ontario National Open’s to get down to the business of gymnastics. The Vegas Cup competition is run much differently than anything in Canada. It’s a bit chaotic on the competitive floor, but it just seemed to add to the excitement. When our National Open’s arrived for the Elite Competition, awards were still being handed out for the previous meet. All 53 elite competitors from Canada, U.S.A and Australia were allowed to run up and down the vault runway for their 15 minute general warm Up – and we did manage a few minutes of that time on the floor area to do some stretching and beam tricks. When the awards ceremony for the previous group was finished, the march in music was suddenly pumping through the gym and all the gymnasts quickly, and quite automatically joined in the parade from wherever they were standing. It was interesting that the athletes didn’t need to gather out in the hallway for 10 minutes or more to line up as most competitions traditionally insist on. The music simply turned on, and so did the athletes!!

Julie-Ann Passy
Ontario's first 2002
Canada Winter
Games trials

After all teams were introduced, Ontario headed to vault. Each athlete had a maximum of 3-4 touches before the green light came on. In reality, there were no green lights or green cards used. All of the Judges waved an American flag to signal to each athlete to begin their routine. The very short warm up did not prove to be a problem for Team Ontario. All six athletes were very focused and rocked vault! Top Ontario score came from Julie-Ann Passy (9.5 out of a Start Value of 9.7) for the best Yurchenko layout she has ever performed in competition. As soon as they finished vault they headed over to bars. There was no official march from event to event. Ontario warmed up on bars in between the competitors from the first rotation. As soon as one of them stuck their dismount and the judges began to evaluate their performance, Team Ontario would grab a quick turn on the bars prior to the next athlete being called to compete. It was non-stop action!
Cara Pomoroy
2000 Gymnastics Challenge

Soon it was Ontario’s turn to strut their stuff on bars after only a 3-touch warm up. Once again Ontario showed they could handle the pressure. Danielle had one slight slip, however her other 5 teammates nailed their routines so the fall was not counted in the team total. Top Ontario score came from Cara Pomeroy’s amazingly intricate and perfectly executed routine (9.4).

Beam was next and proved to be a bit more of a challenge, although some parts were absolutely magnificent! Cara was the only Ontario team member to perform a solid, clean beam routine without a fall. She showed great poise and determination scoring 9.40. Danielle Goddard and Rhiannon Banda-Scott pushed hard, but unfortunately both struggled with falls on this event. Julie-Ann and Chantelle were so close to hitting great routines. They both gave an absolutely rock solid performance except for one split second. Julie-Ann fell on a standing back tuck and Chantelle Tousek fell on her side salto, however the rest of their routine was so strong that both athletes scored over 9.0 even with one fall. Chantelle scored 9.175 and Julie-Ann scored 9.20 !!

Chantelle Touse at 2001 Elite Canada

Floor was next and Ontario was ready. Once again they warmed up quickly in between competitors from the previous rotation. The judges would yell “Clear”, and everyone warming up would exit the floor area to watch the next competitor. Unfortunately Danielle wasn’t feeling well and could not compete the last event of the day. Rhiannon had a fantastic start with a very strong whip through to double pike, but ran out of energy and fell on the next two lines. Kristen, Cara and Julie-Ann all had great performances on floor, however the highlight of the day was certainly Chantelle’s beautiful, passionate routine.

Kristen Coleman at Ontario's second
2003 Canada Winter Games Trials

Chantelle performed 1 ½ through to triple twist in the first line, a sky-high double pike in the second line and a solid double twist in the last line. All three tumbling lines were linked together with a very mature, classy, sophisticated and artistic presentation. The Judges were obviously very impressed by this special Ontario treat, and they rewarded Chantelle with the Silver Medal (9.525) just behind 9.65 for U.S.A’s Tasha Schwikert.

2000 Olympian & 2001 World Team Member Tasha Schwikert has recovered from ankle surgery and Vegas Cup was her debut back to competition. Tasha looked strong and fit. She performed crowd pleasing solid routines, however some of her biggest skills were omitted for this early public performance. It was certainly a thrill for Julie-Ann Passy (2nd Place Vault), Cara Pomoroy (3rd Place Bars) and Chantelle Tousek (2nd Place Floor) to stand shoulder to shoulder beside this American super-star on the medal podium. Tasha won vault, bars and floor, but our Ontario athletes were right there with her enjoying the moment.

Although all 53 elite athletes competed together in the competition, the host club – Gymcats, divided the awards according to Age Groups. The results are listed according to their respective Age Groups. All around scores & rankings have also been listed for the total meet (53 athletes).

Elite Team results (Total of 8 Teams)

RankClubTeam Total
1. Desert Devils 114.125
2.Gymcats (Host Club) 113.800
3. Team Ontario 112.875

Elite Individual results (Total of 53 Participants)

NameAA TotalAge GroupAge Group
Cara Pomoroy 37.52516 & over 4th 6th 7th 3rd 4th 6th
Julie-Ann Passy 37.27516 & over 5th 9th 2nd 8th 7th 7th
Kristen Coleman 37.27516& over 6th 10th 4th 7th 10th 4th
Chantelle Tousek 37.25016 & over 7th 11th 5th 9th 8th 2nd
Rhiannon Banda-Scott 35.72515 and Under 6th 24th 3rd 2nd  9th 15th
Danielle Goddard 26.300*15 and Under 15th 9th 9th 11th -
* Goddard did not compete floor due to illness

Vegas was an excellent opportunity for each Ontario gymnast to display and enhance their gymnastics ability, however it also served an essential purpose to further develop their important life skills as well. With the National Open’s, the focus of this Vegas adventure was on teambuilding, confidence, self esteem, time management and communication skills. All six National Opens were excellent ambassadors for Ontario and they can be very proud of all that they gained on this very special trip. The shopping was incredible, the sights in Las Vegas were absolutely amazing, Cirque du Soleil was phenomenal and the meet was fun and very competitive. Going to Vegas was a wonderful reward for our hard working athletes, however it also served as an excellent developmental opportunity – especially for our 4 National Open athletes heading off to U.S.A on NCAA scholarships next season. They have proven that they can handle the pressure and intensity of a new environment while they enjoy their surroundings……..The Vegas stores may never be the same !!!

A very special thank you to Gymnastics Ontario for understanding the importance of Tour for the National Open program, but especially for providing the majority of funding for all the athletes and coaches to attend this event including airfare, hotel accommodation, food and a Cirque du Soleil ticket! None of this would have been possible without the positive, dedicated and hard working Kellie Hinnell’s (Women’s Program Manager) making all of the necessary arrangements on our behalf.

Written by: Carol-Angela Orchard

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