Before the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre was even built, baton twirling had an unexpected stake in it.
Hunting for a location for the newly minted Pan Pacific Cup, the Canadian Baton Twirling Federation (CBTF) set their sights on Red Deer for the international competition.
Almost two years ago things were in motion to bring the high-level event to the city and through two days of competition this weekend, CBTF president Joanne Moser said the 2020 Pan Pacific Cup has been an outstanding success.
“Our planning started before this place was even finished. Some members of the local Alberta association toured the building while it was under construction… they were keen on pursuing this facility. We put in the call, the college was amazing and rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Moser.
“They’ve been the best host and they wanted to make sure this is the best event ever. It’s almost like it was built for our needs.”
Here’s part of the routine from Sagami Senior High School from Japan. Crazy skills from these girls, the World Baton Twirling Federation Pan Pacific Championships are in #RedDeer this weekend. @WorldBaton pic.twitter.com/8OUBo5X9Aq
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) January 18, 2020
On top of Canadian and American athletes at the event, competitors from Japan and Australia also joined the fold. More 220 athletes total gathered for the three-day event, with some as young as nine set to compete. The competition featured elite-level competitors, with some having their eyes on competing at the World Baton Twirling Federation (WBTF) 2020 World Baton Championships later this year.
“We’ve expanded our rules on the minimum age to compete to allow some younger athletes to get some international experience. We think that this event is just going to get bigger and bigger,” Moser said.
“Because this is also the stepping stone in that open division for athletes who really have their sights set on the world championships. It allows them to get exposure to help develop. For our athletes, I want to get Canada on the map and on the podium.”
With the vast majority of events in Europe, Moser said the Pan Pacific Cup gives athletes a chance to compete on the international stage, in front of international level judges and against some of the best in the world.
On the international stage for the first time was Australian Chole Ryan, 15, from Queensland. Ryan said the team has enjoyed their taste of Canadiana this week.
“The most enjoyable part about the whole experience is probably meeting new people and seeing other people’s routines and how you fit into all that,” said Ryan, who participated in four different events at the competition.
Her teammate Bri Horsnell, 18, said their group is like a family. They’ve been training three times a week for nearly 18 months, which all comes down to about 10 minutes of competition.
“It’s really fun with the girls, the friendships we make. Most of the girls that I twirl with are three or four years younger than me. They’re like my best friends. We come from different schools but we’re all still really close,” she said.
“It’s more nerve-wracking because you put so much effort in, we’ve been preparing for 18 months… and you don’t get any do-overs. It’s very nerve-wracking.”
Central Alberta also has a strong history in baton twirling. Red Deer helped produce Michelle C. Smith, a world champion baton twirler, who is now an actress and stunt artist (Deadpool, Smallville) and Hollie Gamble (nee Neilson).
Moser added with the success of the Pan Pacific Cup, there may be opportunities for Red Deer to host national-level competitions down the road.
The finals were set to begin Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.