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Rankin gymnasts eye up worlds

Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights Gymnastics) has long had a motto: if you're going to dream, then you might as well dream big.

Now the team is seeing its biggest dreams come true.

Rankin Inlet's Aqsarniit Ujauttaq (Northern Lights Gymnastics) is getting set to perform on the world stage next summer after taking part in a national gymnastics showcase in Vancouver last month.
Girls are from back left, on shoulders: Audrey Fredlund, Abby Macdonald; back row: Maya Hidalgo, Nefretiri Innukshuk, Alyson McKay, Bailey Green; middle row: Candace Mamgark, Kortni McKay, Lexus Dion, Rachel Tutanuak, Kylie Mae Alksanik, Caroline Gibbons, Josie Panika, AJ Libatique. front row in splits: Vestal Nester, Kyrene Angootealuk, Latasha Nirlungayuk, Raegan Tattuinee, Yzabell Macdonald. Missing from the pictures are Carolina Hidalgo (team manager), Bing Sadwina (chaperone), Tessa Angootealuk (chaperone), Lisa Kresky (coach). photo courtesy of Lisa Kresky

The 19 members of Aqsarniit Ujauttaq recently earned the opportunity to perform on the world stage when they took part in the Canadian Gymnaestrada showcase in Vancouver last month.

“We couldn't be more pleased with what they did,” said coach Lisa Kresky.

This was the second time the girls performed outside of Rankin, having previously done a showcase in Las Vegas. Kresky said there were a few nerves during dress rehearsal but with each performance they got stronger and more focussed. At one point in their routine, they even had the crowd clapping along.

“The girls just got more and more excited to perform,” said Kresky.

In total the gymnasts did four routines over the course of the trip, including a performance for the closing gala. The Rankin team was one of eight out of more than 60 groups that got chosen to participate in the gala.

“It was super busy and super fun,” said Alyson McKay, who is one of the Aqsarniit Ujauttaq's members along with her sister Kortni.

Rankin Inlet's gymnastics club has been around for 14 years but this was the first year the team participated in the Gymnaestrada. Twelve-year-old McKay, has almost been there from the beginning, having started in gymnastics with Kresky when she was two-years-old.

“I've been in gymnastics for a long time,” said McKay. “(Gymnaestrada) is a brand new thing for me so it's very important to me.”

Kresky emphasized that the Gymnaestrada was not a competition but a way for athletes to demonstrate their routines in front of new audiences.

“It's really designed for anyone who wants to be involved,” said Kresky. “There was a team of people from Edmonton [whose youngest member] was 67 and the oldest guy was 86.”

Kresky added that the trips are about so much more than gymnastics. They taught throat singing to a group of 300 people and were demonstrating Inuktitut on bus rides with other delegations. They also attended an event where they learned how to write their names in Japanese.

“They were amazing ambassadors for Rankin Inlet and the Kivalliq region,” said Kresky.

With the world showcase set to to take place in Austria next summer, the girls are now turning to the monumental task of raising $150,000. That's how much it will cost to get an entire team of 19 girls, 3 chaperons and coach Kresky there and back.

“That's including all flights, accommodation, registration fees and uniforms,” said Kresky.

Although it may seem like a huge amount of money, Kresky said the girls are going to do everything they can to fundraise the amount. They are even looking at potentially getting some sponsors. Among the highlights of going to Austria would be the opportunity to perform alongside 2,000 other people from all over the world. With almost exactly one year until the event in Austria, Kresky said the girls are already preparing their routine.

“Everyone came back really excited and looking forward to the possibilities in the future,” said Kresky.