Damien Cachia of Calgary warms up on the rings at the Artistic and Acrobatic Provincial Championships at the Collicutt Centre on Friday. Over 700 athletes from across the province will compete throughout the weekend at the event. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer plays host to top artistic and acrobatic gymnasts in Alberta

The Collicutt Centre was filled with future Olympic hopefuls on Friday for one of the biggest gymnastics competitions of the season in Alberta.

Over the weekend, more than 700 athletes from across the province will compete at the Artistic and Acrobatic Provincial Championships.

The event will occupy both indoor soccer fields at the Collicutt Centre and for Exelta Gymnastic Club coach Barb Bilsborrow, who is helping spearhead the competition, it was great to see everything run smoothly Friday.

“It is the provincial championships for levels five to 10 and the trials for the Canadian Championships for level nine and 10,” said Bilsborrow.

“Many, many months of prep and lots of volunteers. Once it all starts, it goes from there.”

On the women’s side, they compete in four events, and the men’s side there are seven. The women compete in Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam and Floor. The men compete in Floor, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, Horizontal Bar and Physical Prep.

The competitors also got a chance to pick the brain of a two-time Olympian at the event, as 24-year-old Brittany Rogers was on hand running the social media for Alberta Gymnastics Federation. Rogers was also just returning from the Commonwealth Games, where she won a medal for Canada.

“It was the best we’ve done in a long time. It was a great opportunity and something I’m very proud of,” Rogers said.

Rogers, who trains in Calgary but was born in New Westminster, B.C., said it was a bit of a turn back the clock moment watching all the young competitors at the championships, but she had some simple advice for many of them.

“It’s amazing seeing how many opportunities these girls get. It takes a lot to get to the Commonwealth Games and you see the best of the best there. Here, there are so many girls fighting to go after the same dream. It’s humbling knowing I’ve come from the same spot and knowing where I am now,” she said.

“You just have to go to the beat of your own drum. Work hard, stay humble and have fun and that’s the most important thing.”

Not only is the event a pinnacle for many of the younger athletes, it is also both Canadian trails and a test event for the 2018 Canada Winter Games.

“This is their Olympics,” Bilsborrow said about the young competitors from levels five to seven.

“They had to try out to get here, on the women’s side.”

Bilsborrow also added it’s the second test event for the Games they’ve hosted at the Collicutt Centre and she said they’ve ironed out many of the logistical issues.

“It’s our second meet in this facility this year. In our invitational, we had 65o athletes, but we only used one side. In the Games we will only use one side,” she said.

“It’s lucky we got to do a couple (tests) in here. (We learned about) technical stuff mostly, the music, the computers and things like that. Placement of equipment.”

For the schedule of events this weekend, head towww.abgym.ab.ca

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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