Prince Rupert gymnasts secured 29 gold medals at the inaugural Over the Rainbow Gymnastics Invitational on March 19, held in the city.
The event hosted 79 Kitimat, Smithers, Quesnel, and Prince Rupert athletes. Terrace gymnasts were absent from the event due the the city’s club shutting because of the pandemic.
The event was the first-ever tournament the Prince Rupert Gymnastics Association (PRGA) has hosted, Erin Hipkiss, PRGA head coach, told The Northern View.
“[It] was kind of a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for a long time to host our own competition here in Prince Rupert and it went off without a hitch,” Hipkiss said.
The tournament opened with a K’angoots blessing from Gilwilgoots hereditary Chief Nistoix (Clarence Nelson). He said the blessing was made to keep all the competitors safe throughout the day.
Each of the PRGA competitors made a podium appearance throughout the competition.
The tournament also featured the first-ever Amber Kotzer Memorial Award, presented to Mya Anthony of the Kitimat Dynamic Gymnastics Club.
Kotzer was a fellow gymnast and childhood best friend of Hipkiss, who passed away from cancer at 19.
“She has forever been my inspiration,” Hipkiss said. “I wanted to create an award for someone that shows passion in the sport of gymnastics, someone who’s a solid teammate, who is always there for you and someone who makes those memories with you because, as we all know, that’s what sports is about,” Hipkiss said.
The award winner gets to design their own leotard with tournament sponsor DNA Performance Wear.
Holding the event was a remarkable achievement after all the challenges the association faced in securing a new building and equipment for their gymnasts, Kerianne Smith, PRGA coach, said.
The association boasts an 11,000 square foot facility and is the only gymnastics club in the Northwest that can house every competitive event at once without having to rearrange equipment. The new assets include an Olympic-level gymnastics floor and safety equipment.
The inaugural event was huge for the club and the gymnastics community, Hipkiss said.
“It probably means we’re about to grow even more,” she said.
The tournament’s success combined with their new facility means the PRGA will be able to host the tournament every year, Smith said.
“Next year, we want to host the final competition of the year, meaning that they can have this as their vacation [tournament],” she said. “Eventually, we’re going to have a national-level [event], once these girls get to a national-level.”
However, hosting a national-level tournament today with the current facilities is not possible due its size, Hipkiss said.
“Unless the city wants to give us the rest of the building, we could make more room,” she said.
With the association’s upgraded equipment, they are able to a host national-level training camp for up to 20 gymnasts, the head coach said.
For some of the PRGA’s athletes, this was the first tournament they had competed in. Smith said that first-time athletes started the day off a little nervous but left the event confident and happy.
“It’s really great that everybody got to get back together. These are all special memories. These are your friends for life,” she said.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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