A young gymnast from P.E.I. will make her debut at the national championships next month in Waterloo, Ontario.
Eleven-year-old Chloe Cudmore is the first gymnast from the Victory Gymnastics Centre in Charlottetown to qualify for nationals. She's also the first female competitor from P.E.I. to go to the national championships since 2011.
"For a young lady of her age in particular, it's a big accomplishment," said Freddy Martin, executive director for Gymnastics PEI. "We haven't been able to do that for the last few years and she's worked hard over the last few years to do this."
He also gives credit to her coach, Kristi Shoemaker.
"She went to Ontario and got coached by the best coaches and came back to Prince Edward Island with the vision that she could train up elite athletes," Martin said.
Athlete every coach wants to train
Shoemaker left P.E.I. after high school to study to be a gymnastics coach at Seneca College in Toronto. She also worked at a club in North York with two former Olympic level coaches.
"We actually had a to do a project in school where you had to map out your own gym and how would you set it up," Shoemaker said. "Then my family was like, that's probably something you could do, run a club."
"I came back and gave it a shot and here we are, eight years later."
Cudmore started gymnastics at Victory at the age of three.
"You could see early on that she had the talent and the desire to do this," Shoemaker said.
She said Cudmore's work ethic is also obvious during the 16 hours she puts in at the gym every week.
"She's the type of athlete that every coach wants to coach," Shoemaker said.
"For instance, when we go to beam, the other girls will take rests between their turns but not her. She's trying to fix something and she doesn't have to be asked to or told, she just wants to."
'I was nervous but she wasn't'
Cudmore started the year in level 8 but had to move up to level 9 to qualify for nationals. There were three meets left for her to qualify and she needed to make a required score twice.
"The first meet that we went to, she had a fall on the bars and a fall on the beam and she didn't end up getting the score at that meet," Shoemaker said.
The next two meets were back-to-back weekends.
"She was ready, she was prepared," Shoemaker said. "I was nervous but she wasn't."
Heading into the final event of the day, Cudmore was on track to make the score to qualify.
"We knew that she needed to stay on the beam," Shoemaker said. "If she did fall off in one of her skills, we knew that the score wouldn't be attainable and she's doing some pretty big skills on the beam so falling, it happens."
Spectators gathered to watch Cudmore, knowing that a trip to the nationals was on the line.
"There were a lot of people watching and I was really hoping I would make it," Cudmore said. "I was a bit nervous but it felt good when I made nationals."
"I can't really put it into words, at both competitions when Chloe qualified, I was just crying," Shoemaker said. "That's how I get, emotional."
Next stop, nationals
Now Cudmore and her coach are looking forward to being at the nationals.
"It might be pretty cool competing against the best gymnasts in Canada," Cudmore said.
"It's a little overwhelming, I've never been to national championships as a coach," Shoemaker said. "I've coached girls who have gone when I was in Ontario but I didn't get to physically go as a coach."
Because Cudmore is just 11, she will get another chance to qualify for nationals at the same level next year and she's also eligible for the Canada Games in 2019.
"I hope to go really far," Cudmore said. "I don't know how far but I'll try to go really far."
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