Special Olympics athletes from around Surrey will attend an invitational rhythmic gymnastics competition at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds this Saturday (March 17).
The all-day competition is organized by Special Olympics BC, which hosts sports events and provides training for more than 4,600 athletes with intellectual disabilities in 55 communities across the province.
The Cloverdale Reporter spoke with South Surrey athlete Krista Milne and her coach Patti Milne ahead of the competition.
Krista first began competing in Special Olympics events when she started figure skating at 16 years old. Within a few years, she had taken up rhythmic gymnastics as well. More than a decade later, Krista is still training and competing in the sports that she loves — and takes up golf in her off seasons, too.
She loves both sports — both incorporate elements of dance, music and fun — but her favourite part of the long hours spent practicing and competing is being with the friends she has met through the sport.
“I like to be with my friends,” she said. “Competing with my friends, having fun with my friends.”
Krista said she also enjoys the choreography of rhythmic gymnastics and working with the various “apparatus.”
In rhythmic gymnastics, athletes manipulate an object, known as an “apparatus,” in graceful routines set to music. An athlete may compete with rope, hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon or enter as an “all-around” competitor to be judged on all available apparatus.
This year, Krista is competing in rope, clubs, ribbon and hoop.
Each apparatus comes with a set of elements to master, explained Patti Milne, Krista’s mother and coach. “There are four to eight skills in each routine that the girls have to learn and perform, and that’s what they’re getting scores on. And, of course, they’re judged on the overall artistic impact, [performing to] the music, and finishing on time.”
Patti coaches around 25 rhythmic gymnasts based in the Surrey area, and has done so for more than 10 years. The group meets every Thursday at Cloverdale’s Shannon Hall to practice and perfect their routines.
Krista isn’t nervous about Saturday’s event. “I’ve been at competitions before,” she explained. “For gymnastics, I know what I’m doing.”
She used to get nervous when she first started out. But only “at first,” she said. “Then after awhile, you build up more confidence.”
Patti agreed, and said that rhythmic gymnastics is a “beautiful, artistic way to build … ”
“Self-confidence,” offered Krista, “[and] your well-being. It’s a great way to be active.”
“Yes,” said Patti, “and to display elegance as well.”
Saturday’s event marks the end of this year’s season. The gymnasts will return next year to compete and qualify for the provincial tournament, set for 2019.
Krista’s looking forward to the competition this weekend, to seeing her friends, to performing, and to possibly winning a medal.
Above all, her advice for her fellow competitors is to “do your best, have fun” and to remember that “no matter what happens out there, you will be awesome.”