The 2019 Canada Winter Games will feel like a big reunion for Red Deer gymnast Zach Blakely.
He looks forward to the social aspect of the games, almost as much as the athletics component.
“Of course, you do want to be the best you can be … but there’s also a sense of community,” says Blakely.
He sees it as another chance to visit with the friendly Canadian competitors who he knows from competitions all over the world: “I’ve made many friends doing this, and I hope they will be life-long friends.”
Some his newest connections were recently made at the University of Alberta, where the 19-year-old Hunting Hills High School grad is studying physiology.
Blakely noticed other students wearing 2019 Canada Winter Games gear. He started up conversations and found out they were athletes, too.
“I said, ‘I’ll see you in the athletes’ village,” he adds, with a laugh.
The trampoline athlete has been performing gymnastics since he was a high-spirited four-year-old.
Blakely’s mother once caught him climbing up a ladder that was leaned up against the house.
At age six or seven, Blakely opted to pursue competitive gymnastics, “and I haven’t looked back since.”
He spends three hours a day, four or five days a week, practising complicated jumps and flips. Among the most difficult is the “full in, randi out,” which is a double front flip “where the first flip is a 360-twist and the second is a 900-degree flip” — meaning he goes around two and a half times.
The trick is to flip hard and fast, said Blakely. “You just say, ‘legs don’t fail me now!’ … You stay tight, push strong and flip right.”
The trampolinist, who will be competing in the individual and synchronized events in the second week of the games, will be judged for the difficulty, execution and height of his routines.
So far, Blakely’s greatest moment was scoring fourth in his age category at an international competition in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2017.
As for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Blakely says, “It would be disingenuous to say anything other than I hope to win … If I do the things that I (need) to do correctly, then I would say I have a decent shot.”