Stinson ready for world spotlight

Joey Payeur

Two long years of hard work is about to come to a big “Finnish” for Vicki Stinson.
The Fort Frances native, who now makes her home in Saskatoon, will be part of Team Canada’s 68-member contingent that will participate in the 15th World Gymnaestrada in Helsinki, Finland from July 5-18.
“All I think about now is the 70 friends I’ve made,” said Stinson, who was a member of Team Saskatchewan that won the 2014 Canada Gymnaestrada in Calgary last July to earn a trip to the world showdown.
“We’re like a family now,” she noted.
“We have worked so hard, we travel together, we do fundraising together,” she added.
“It’s just marvelous.”
Stinson and 10 other members of the Prairie Ribbons Gymnastics Club in Saskatoon made the final cut for Team Saskatchewan out of a field of roughly 300 candidates from across the province.
“They put the call out two years ago and wanted different types of athletes in the province,” she explained.
“Dancers, cheerleaders, tumblers, it was open to anyone, not just gymnasts,” she stressed.
Team Saskatchewan has lost about six members due to various reason since qualifying for the worlds, with four more being added to the lineup to help offset the losses.
Stinson and her clubmates worked two-three hours per week on their Gymnaestrada routine, along with their other training work at their local club.
The entire provincial team then got together once a month for a full practice.
“It’s tough to get together for regular practices because we’ve got competitive gymnasts on our team, where they had a meet pretty much every weekend they had to attend,” Stinson noted.
Two of those are national champions Michael Thorpe (artistic gymnastics) and Brent Ertman (tumbling/trampoline), whose inclusion on Team Saskatchewan has been a huge boost to the squad.
After beating top contenders B.C. and Quebec at the Canadian championship last year, Stinson said the training regimen for the team took on a significantly different focus.
“The first year, the majority of the work was physical preparation to get ready to perform for 15 minutes straight,” she noted.
“So there was a lot of conditioning work and cardio work—and a lot of huffing and puffing,” she chuckled.
“In the second year, it’s all about polishing the details.
“Since December, we’ve been focusing on the nit-picky things, like pointed toes, body lines, and making sure we always have big smiles and bring the audience in with the hope that they enjoy it,” Stinson said.
Team Canada spans the generations, with performers as young as 13 and as old as 65.
“The coaches choreographed our routine to highlight what we do best,” Stinson remarked.
“While the national-level athletes are executing their moves, the older ones are doing things like holding the mats and getting a breather.”
Stinson maintained the team has to remember World Gymnaestrada is the primary reason for going overseas, but she also is looking forward to doing some sightseeing.
“I’ve heard about this great market there, and we’re planning to do boat tours and visit a museum,” noted Stinson, who will get to stay with a Finnish schoolmate from her university days in Louisiana.
“Some of the younger ones talked about going to an amusement park there but that’s probably where the group will split up,” she laughed.
“I’ve done enough tumbling in my lifetime.”
Stinson also noted the city is slated to have trampolines and mats set up in various spots all over Helsinki that the public will be allowed to use recreationally if they happen to pass one by.
She also is excited to get to take in a special evening’s performance done entirely by Team Japan, which she considers the clear-cut favourite to win the world title.
“Japan is always the best and it’s going to be a good team-building exercise to go and watch them,” reasoned Stinson.
Then on another evening, Team Canada will join teams from the U.S., Venezuela, Brazil, and elsewhere to do their own evening performance representing the Americas (North, South, and Latin).
In regards to some of the nations newer to the event, Stinson cited Qatar as one of those she is anxious to witness in competition.
“With Qatar, I’m very interested to see their costumes and routines,” she said.
“The Caribbean and Latin American countries will be enjoyable, and Brazil always does some theme of their ‘carnivale,’” she added.
Stinson is not the only local connection to Team Canada. Fort Frances resident Evelyn Metke has both a niece (Barbara Flaten-Orr) and a great-niece (Kylie Orr) on the national squad.
Expectations for Team Canada are being kept reasonable by Stinson, who said the event is more about the promotion of the sport of gymnastics rather than the competition.
“I think we are quite ready from what I saw at our final team training session last weekend,” she remarked.
“All the coaches were impressed and to impress that many coaches of that calibre is something I’ve never experienced.
“I think Team Canada is going to perform really well and I hope we bring lots of new, innovative movements to the world with our gymnastics routine,” Stinson added.
“People should be really excited when they see us.”