By Ben Li
Gymnasts from all over Canada will descend on the University of Calgary this week. The Final Olympic Trial camps for Athens will take place under the leadership of Men’s National Coach Edouard Iarov. The camps will last two weeks, after which six of the ten gymnasts will be selected for the men’s national team. Dinos Grant Golding and Nathan Gafuik, and their coach Tony Smith, will participate in the camp.
"This is the first time since 1979 that Canada qualified for the Olympics," said Smith, who discounts the 1984 Olympics where Canada’s gymnastic participation was secured due to the Soviet boycott. "With six people going to Athens, there is a reasonable chance to send all four gymnasts from Calgary."
Adam Wong from the Calgary Gymnastics Centre, Kyle Shewfelt from Altadore Gymnastics Club and Brandon O’Neill from the Capital City Gym Club in Edmonton have also earned places at the trial camps. Mathematically, at least one of the five Albertans must become a member of the six-man team.
Coach Smith has high hopes for his two athletes, who he says have been blessed with two injury-free years, unlike the other hopefuls.
"I’m feeling good, confident, relaxed," said Golding before the camp. "I’m looking to have a lot of fun in Athens."
Golding, 23, has already competed twice in the Commonwealth Games and once in the Pan-Am Games. However, the Olympics will be much more intense both mentally and physically. To prepare, Golding has been working with Canadian Sport Centre Mental Training Consultant Derek Robinson.
"This year I’ve done a lot of work with him to help my success. It gives you another bag of tools to use."
Teammate Nathan Gafuik, who wants to study at the U of C next year, has already achieved his goal of making it to trial camps this year. His sights are now set even higher.
"I just have to do my best to be able to work up the team and move up in the rankings," he says. "At the beginning of this year, I didn’t plan to be here in my first year as a senior athlete. It’s taken lots of training so there’s not much time for myself."
Gafuik is currently ranked tenth among the ten camp participants, but the rookie has many future Olympiads to look forward to if he is not selected for Athens.