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Gymnasts dream big in Rankin

If you're going to dream, then you might as well dream big.

That's the motto of the Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights Gymnastics) Club as it sets its sights on a number of impressive events that club founder and head coach Lisa Kresky is going to do everything in her power to see her gymnasts attend.

Members of the Rankin Inlet gymnastics club selected for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games are, from left, Josie Panika, AJ Libatique, Kylie Mae Aksalnik, Maya Hidalgo, Nefretiri Innukshuk (alternate) and Audrey Fredlund (alternate) in Rankin Inlet on Dec. 6. photo courtesy of Lisa Kresky

This year, the club has a team of 22 gymnasts, with the youngest being seven years of age and three members being young adults.

The club is looking forward to travelling to Las Vegas from Feb. 23 to March 5 to attend a large competition with kids from across the United States, as well as Honduras and Mexico.

The young Rankin gymnasts will compete twice at the Vegas event, and get to do a group performance.

Kresky said she hopes the Rankin gymnasts get a chance to train at a club in Winnipeg and another in Vegas before the actual competition starts.

She said the club is also very excited to announce it has four youths chosen – Josie Panika, AJ Libatique, Kylie Mae Aksalnik and Maya Hidalgo – to represent Nunavut at the Arctic Winter Games this coming March in Hay River, NWT.

“Vegas is big, obviously, but we've started to dream really big and, if we can ever raise enough money, we're hoping to go to Vancouver from June 26 to July 3, 2018, to perform at Canadian Gymnaestrada,” said Kresky.

“Gymnasts from all across Canada will be coming to do both indoor and outdoor large-group performances over the course of three days in Vancouver.

“They will also be participating in numerous workshops during that time, so the kids will get to meet gymnasts and performers from across the country.

“And, if we can get to the Canadians, then our big dream is to be a part of Team Canada and go to the World Gymnaestrada in Dorbrin, Austria, from July 5 to 14 in 2019.”

Kresky said if the Rankin club can make it to Vancouver, it automatically qualifies for the World Gymnaestrada.

She said the only thing standing in the team's way is money.

“We've got the drive, the passion and the love of the sport, so the financial obstacle is the only thing standing in our way right now, which is why our club always says a big thank you to companies like Nuna Logistics, Calm Air, and Nanuq Lodge for their help in providing funds or in-kind donations because continued support is needed to make these big dreams a reality for the gymnasts.

“It would be incredible to be a part of Team Canada at the World Gymnaestrada, where there will be more than 50 countries taking part and more than 20,000 participants.

“It's a huge international event, virtually the size of an Olympics, and we would be part of a Team Canada with about 600 Canadians.

“To be able to represent Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and Canada on such a huge scale would be just amazing for everybody involved.”

Kresky said her gymnasts are crazy excited and have countdowns for every event.

She said her only worry is that they will be crushed if they can't raise the money needed to make the trips.

“Gymnaestrada is not a competition, but, rather, it's performance called gymnastics for all, which means all abilities and all ages from 10 and up.

“That's one of the most-amazing opportunities about this for us, because we don't have to be national- or Olympic-level gymnasts to go, and we'll be using things to showcase the North during our performance.

“These are big dreams, so the kids have been training hard, they're super excited about all the opportunities, and they've been fundraising like crazy doing gym-a-thons, bingo, raffles, penny sales, and all that kind of stuff, but, unfortunately, with a team of 22 kids and three coaches, we're looking at huge expenses, but the cost is really a small price to pay based on the experiences these kids are going to have.

“This is our big dream and we just hope people will help sponsor us and provide funding for us so we can make this dream a reality.”