Friday, December 16, 2011


I've been hanging around the Calgary Gymnastics Centre quite a bit these past few days acting as team mentor for the Canadian Men's Gymnastics team. They have 25 days left until their final shot at Olympic qualification. The pressure's on.

Check out this article from the Calgary Herald about the team and the final push towards their Olympic dream...

Canadian gymnasts prepare for Olympic qualification


Shewfelt mentoring squad as they sequester in Calgary to train for next month’s competition in London

Former Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt is lending his expertise as a mentor to the national team.

Former Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt is lending his expertise as a mentor to the national team.

Photograph by: Stuart Gradon

Kyle Shewfelt knows what a difference it can make to have teammates at the Summer Olympics.
“I was by myself in 2000 and it was like, blah, and in 2004, when I won (floor routine), I had all the support of the team. You’re so much more into it ... it just makes such a huge difference.”
Shewfelt has long packed up his golden gymnastics career, but he’ll be close by when the Canadian men’s team travels to London, England next month to try to land one of the last four-team berths to the 2012 Summer Olympics in that country.
If they qualify, they can send a team of six (five compete). If not, only one can carry the flag.
Seven members of the team have gathered for a weeklong training camp at the Calgary Gymnastics Centre to fine tune their routines. They’ll get their chance to land a spot Jan. 10 in London against France, Great Britain, Spain, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Italy and Belarus.
Those countries, along with 12th-place Canada, finished between ninth and 16th in the recent world championships, where the top eight automatically qualified for the Olympics.
“Based on their past results, the front-runners are Great Britain and France,” suggested Shewfelt, who serves as a mentor to the Canadian team. “They have a lot of veterans and have really high difficulty scores, but Canada factors into that group.
“They just need to be consistent and really hit because this is cutthroat. It’s your last shot, it’s urgent ... do or die mentality.”
Two-time Canadian Olympic team member Nathan Gafuik of Calgary knows of what Shewfelt speaks.
“We went into worlds hoping that was the place we were going to make it ... went into that one thinking that was our last chance and then, whoops, we got this chance,” said the 26-year-old member of the University of Calgary Gymnastics Club. “The last two times we qualified, we did if from the worlds, but the rules have changed so now we have to do a secondary qualifier, which is a bit of new thing, but we should be OK.”
Gafuik has been to the past two Olympics, in 2004 as a standby reserve on the six-man team, and as a competitor in 2008. His high-bar and vault routines are world class. Perhaps even good enough to find an Olympic podium finish at London.
“(High bars) is such a hard event to do perfectly every time with all the different manoeuvres that we have to do,” said Gafuik, who has 20 years of gymnastic experience. “If I can ever figure out how to be on every single time, it’ll become one of my good ones.
“As you mature and you get all the skills you need to challenge for that (medal) position, then it’s all about perfecting them, being confident in competition situations, consistent in competition situations, so a lot of the last couple years has been aimed towards doing that.”
Gafuik is joined on the team by 2005 world championship medallist Brandon O’Neill of Edmonton, up-and-comer Jackson Payne of Edmonton, Ken Ikeda of Abbotsford, B.C., former NCAA champion Casey Sandy of Brampton, Ont., Jayd Lukenchuk of Saskatoon and Kevin Lytwun of Stoney, Creek, Ont.
Although there’s still that big test event to get through, Shewfelt believes Canada has a big shot at landing a couple of Olympic medals next summer.
“Brandon O’Neill on floor,” he said of the 27-year-old. “Very talented, world champion medallist in 2005 who has struggled with injuries the past few years, but he’s back and looks really, really good.
“Then Nathan Gafuik ... he’s always been so great on the high bar. I know right now he’s focused on team qualifications, so he’s taken out some of his difficulty, but once the team qualifies he’s going to add in a lot of new skills, give himself the best shot to get to the finals.
“Once you get to the finals, it’s anybody’s game. That was proven in 2004 when I won. You just have to get past that first phase and be perfect on the day.”

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