Sports

Mission gymnast Skulstad aims for gold

Tamara Skulstad, pondering the opportunity to participate in the BC Winter Games in her hometown, doesn’t mince words when asked about her goals.

“To win,” she says, without missing a beat.

Based on her recent results, gymnast Skulstad, 10, has every reason to dream of climbing to the top step of the podium at the Games, which run Feb. 20-23 in Mission.

In 2013, won all-around gold in the Level 4 tyro division at the B.C. championships, and followed that up with all-around silver at the Western Canadians.

At the recent Fraser Valley Zone 3 trials for the Winter Games team, Skulstad won the Level 4 all-around while posting the top scores on all four apparatuses – vault, uneven bars, beam and floor.

“As a coach, I don’t like to jinx anything,” said Shallon Heinzig, one of Skulstad’s coaches at Abbotsford’s Twisters Gymnastics Club, assessing her medal chances at the BC Games. “But she won the trials by almost five points, which is kind of crazy. It’s a huge margin, and she won every single event.

“She was the youngest athlete at the trial, and she could very well be one of the youngest athletes at the Games.”

Skulstad is among a group of eight gymnasts who train at Twisters who qualified for the Games. Ella Palmer and Brienna Gaspar join her on the girls side, while Kristofer Unipan, Wyatt Lavers, Francois Barnard, Brogan Neufeld and DJ Tarbaj qualified on the boys side.

Skulstad and Unipan both hail from Mission, and they’re part of a five-athlete contingent from the Games’ host city. The other three Mission athletes who will be competing are speed skaters Janie Green, Shivani Bahadur and Adam Holtby.

All athletes, including those from Mission, are staying at local schools during the Games – an immersive element which Heinzig believes adds to the athletes’ experience.

The BC Games are a two-day event for gymnasts, who will compete both individually and as zone teams. Heinzig noted that for her girls, this will be their taste of a multi-day competition.

“It’s very good for our girls, because they’re so young,” she said. “It opens their eyes and gets them excited about what could come in the future, and motivates them to try to move on and get better and better.”

The final participant numbers are in for the 2014 BC Winter Games. 1,343 athletes will be in attendance, and there will be an additional 530 coaches, supervisors and officials involved.

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