Elite Canada brings gymnasts vying for national team status to Sask.

Gymnastics Saskatchewan hosted Elite Canada in Saskatoon, a national event for developing high performance athletes. (Theresa Kliem/CBC - image credit)
Gymnastics Saskatchewan hosted Elite Canada in Saskatoon, a national event for developing high performance athletes. (Theresa Kliem/CBC - image credit)

Making the national team is a dream for many athletes, including some young Canadian gymnasts who were competing in Saskatoon this past weekend.

Saskatchewan's Amy Jorgensen already knows what it feels like to represent Canada on the international stage. She has been on Team Canada since 2021.

The 16-year-old was also one of about 160 athletes from across the country performing at Elite Canada this past weekend at the Saskatoon Field House, hoping to keep or get a spot in Canada's national teams.

"It's something I really enjoy doing," said Jorgensen. "I always want to put out my best performances for Canada, so I think it's something that really pushes me to work harder and to get better."

Having the annual Elite Canada meet in Saskatoon is a rare opportunity for the 16-year-old and other Saskatchewan gymnasts to compete at such a high level in their home province.

Gymnastics Saskatchewan, Gymnastics Canada and Saskatoon's gymnastics clubs hosted the national meet, with competition spanning over three days.

It was a chance for younger and older gymnasts to kick off the 2023 season and vie for national team status, according to Gymnastics Saskatchewan.

Theresa Kliem/CBC
Theresa Kliem/CBC

The meet in Saskatoon was the first in-person Elite Canada competition since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with last year's event still running virtually.

"It's really great for us as a province," said Dana Brass, competitive head coach at Marian Gymnastics, who has been working with Jorgensen for about eight years.

Brass said points earned at the competition count toward national rankings.

"So obviously the goal would be to remain on the national team."

Sask. gymnastics star cheers on next generation of gymnasts

Jorgensen wasn't the only national team member from Saskatchewan at Saskatoon Field House last weekend.

Denelle Pedrick grew up in Wilcox, around 40 kilometres southwest of Regina.

In November, Pedrick and her teammates made history when they won bronze in the team event at the world gymnastics championships, securing a berth in that event at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Despite not being able to compete herself over the weekend, the 23-year-old kept herself busy watching the next generation.

"It was bittersweet. Being from Saskatchewan, I would have loved to compete [at Elite Canada in Saskatoon]," said Pedrick on Sunday.

"But coming off of worlds, rest was kind of more important right now."

Over the weekend, Pedrick took photos with younger gymnasts and handing out medals at the awards ceremony.

"My favourite part of coming to these competitions is meeting the young gymnasts, learning what their goals and aspirations are, and just spreading the joy of gymnastics," said Pedrick.

"That's why we do it. We love it."

Theresa Kliem/CBC
Theresa Kliem/CBC

Male athletes from across the country also performed at the competition in pommel horse, rings, vault, floor, parallel bars and horizontal bar.

While Jorgensen and Pedrick already made the national team, Noah Royer with Saskatoon's Taiso Gymnastic Club is still working toward that goal.

"It's always been a dream of mine, to make the national team and represent Canada," said Royer.

"For national selection [Elite Canada] is very important…. It's nice just to see everybody gather in a place that I guess feels like home to me, and just to see that level of gymnastics that's not usually present in Saskatchewan."

Noah Royer made the podium in three events in the "next gen" age group. Royer finished first in the rings event, and second in the high bar and parallel bars.

"The plan is to keep going until at least 2028," he said. "Trying to make that Olympic cycle. That's the goal."

In the women's senior age group, Saskatoon's Jorgensen placed fifth in the all-around competition, which includes two days of performing in vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.

Her teammate and only other Saskatchewan competitor in that age group, Marie Millette, finished 17th.

"It's been really cool," said Jorgensen. "It's nice for everyone to see, like, where I come from."