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Richmond gymnasts limbering up for first competition since COVID struck

However, the Richmond Gymnastics Association can only enter 11 of its 50 elite athletes due to technical restrictions of the virtual events

The welcome prospect of two competitions on the horizon is a bit of a double-edged sword for Richmond’s gymnastics community.

Like most amateur sports, the pandemic all but wiped out the competitive side, including gymnastics, which was reduced to training and skill sessions only.

That will be the case until the next two weeks, when a regional event and then the BC Championships come sharply into focus for athletes starved of competition for almost a year.

However, given the ongoing restrictions, the aforementioned events are being run virtually – complete with all kinds of technical barriers – so the Richmond Gymnastic Association can only enter 11 of its 50 or so competitive athletes.

“It has been amazing (this last couple of weeks) for our athletes. I think it has been a great positive that they can now showcase what they’ve been learning over the last year,” said Puneet Bains, executive director of the River Road-based association, which has been around since the 1960s.

“Last year, we had to tell them that it would be a long while before they could compete so it was difficult to keep them motivated.

“It has been a struggle for myself and the coaches to know how much to push the athletes because they had nothing to work towards.

“And we had to make a tough decision recently as, because of distancing and logistics, not all of our 50 or so competitive athletes are able to take part in these competitions.”

Bains said the virtual competitions will be a sharp learning curve for the athletes and the association.

“The athletes will have a time slot to perform and the video will then be uploaded (to the competition’s online platform). After about four days, the judges will do live-scoring for everyone to see,” added Bains.

“We’ve had some of higher level athletes stressed out now. Usually, you have about four or five competitions to prepare before the BC Championships, but now they’re almost going straight into it.”

Bains said the 300-member club – made up of toddlers through to adults – has been subject to pandemic-related restrictions the same as other sports, but has been able to operate closer to normal, given the solo nature of the sport.

“We can keep our distance quite easily and have been training since July at reduced hours,” she said.

“We’ve survived through that and now we are very excited to be participating next week in our first competition since the start of the pandemic.”