Wanut Grove teen skipping with Neon Sensations for world title in Hong Kong

Fancy footwork landed Walnut Grove teen Lauren Kimoto and the other three members of the Neon Sensations in Hong Kong in two weeks.

And they’ll need fleet feet and impeccable timing to make an impact at the FISAC (Federation Internationale de saut a la Corde) Jump Rope World Championships, being held July 28 to Aug. 3 in the Chinese metropolis.

Kimoto is the lone Langley athlete on the Abbotsford team which includes Kaeli Wiens, Sadie Baird, and Brittany Van Herk.

Formed in September 2013, the Neon Sensations earned the right to represent Canada at the world competition after taking top spot in their 15-17 age group at both the B.C. provincials in Nelson, and the Canadian national rope skipping championships, held May 16-19 in Abbotsford.

The team has performed shows as larger groups for events like the B.C. boys high school basketball championships, Trinity Western University and the University of the Fraser Valley basketball and volleyball games, during Canada Day in Abbotsford, and in front of Zajac Ranch campers.

But this upcoming world championships is new territory for all four Neon Sensations team members, and Kimoto isn’t sure what to expect.

“It’s a different style than how you jump in Canada and in the States, because there’s different judging criteria,” she said, “where this is more [of] you have to have certain skills and it’s not quite the same as Canada. It’s more based on the French and European styles.”

Being that they are among the youngest foursomes in their group – Kimoto and Van Herk are both 15 years old, Baird and Wiens are 14 – the Neon Sensations are focusing on keeping their routines clean and doing their best.

“We are at the very bottom of our age group because it is 15-plus, it’s not 15 to 17,” Kimoto said.

Joining Kimoto in Hong Kong is her dad Dwayne.

“There’s nine of us in total, the four skippers, four parents, and a coach,” Dwayne said.

Kimoto got involved in jump rope five years ago, through community camps hosted by the Abbotsford Skipping Sensations at the Abbotsford Rec Centre.

“You go to community camps and then you’re asked to join the team if they think you’re a good fit,” said Kimoto, whose 12-year-old cousin Kira Peary is a member of Abbotsford Skipping Sensations program.

“She started late,” Kimoto’s mom Paula added. “She didn’t get asked to be on the team until she was 10, and most kids start when they are five or six.”

The roughly 40 Skipping Sensations team members, all female, range in age from six to 30-plus.

Led by Deirdre DeGagne, who has coached the team since its inception, the Sensations are entering their 25th year.

The Neon Sensations are part of the Abbotsford squad.

Jump rope teams perform a variety of double dutch synchronized jumping over a single rope, or speed events in which two team members turn double dutch ropes and one skipper jumps, and is scored on how many jumps she performs over a certain period of time.

The Sensations train three days a week, two hours each session in Abbotsford and compete in events for speed, power, and freestyle. They also compete as individuals, pairs, and teams of four or five.  

“There’s individual events that you do by yourself with your own single rope,” Kimoto explained

She noted that there are a variety of speed events in which a skipper jumps for 30 seconds or three minutes and will perform as many jumps as possible over that allotted time span.

There are also single rope freestyle events where a routine is performed to music, and skippers are judged on their creativity, difficulty, and technique.

“And there’s consecutive power which is either a ‘double under’ where you jump once and your rope goes under two times, and a triple under, where you jump once and your rope goes under three times,” added Kimoto, who feels she can always improve in her chosen sport.

“There’s always new challenges, new skills and you always want to improve because there’s always new tricks being made up, by someone,” she said.

There are currently teams in Nelson, Penticton, Vancouver Island, and Chilliwack, as well.

NOTEBOOK: A straight A student, Kimoto is entering Grade 10 at Walnut Grove Secondary in the fall,  and runs track with the WGSS Gators track team in the spring.

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