‘It seems insane to me’: Alberta gymnastics coach fears implications of government-imposed training limits

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WATCH: Alberta athletes worry COVID-19 restrictions could put an end to their Olympic dreams. As Jill Croteau reports, training limitations for gymnasts are causing serious concerns – Dec 1, 2020

Gymnastics is a sport that takes flexibility, and strength but those in the industry are feeling a lot more unstable as they navigate new COVID-19 restrictions.

The latest guidelines dictate group classes are not allowed and any training must be one on one.

The coach and owner of Foothills GymStars, Karen Sim, said with a rented space of over 6,000 square feet, it doesn’t make sense to be limited to just one coach and one athlete.

“This is a huge space to have one gymnast in at a time, it’s crazy,” Sim said.

“I would typically bring in a group of seven gymnasts, but what they expect me to do is to bring in five or six more coaches to cover those kids.,” Sim said. “Doesn’t that defeat trying to keep less people in one place?”

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“They’re saying those kids have to have seven coaches instead of one? It just seems insane to me.”

Sim said with those logistics, there isn’t enough time in a day to separately train each elite athlete their usual 20 hours a week, now it’s down to one or two hours a week. Reducing that training can be detrimental.

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Foothills GymStars.”It’s way more of a mental thing to them. They get up on the high bar and the beam that’s a very small piece of wood and doing back tucks and big skills that are scary. You stop training consistently and it becomes a fear, they get up there and they freeze,” Sim said.

Majken Holmgren-Zunti is an 11-year-old accomplished gymnast who worries about these new restrictions.

“I’m worried about losing my skills and not being able to compete and get to a high level,” Holmgren-Zunti said. “At home, you can’t train, we don’t have beams or bars so you lose things and the process of getting them back again it’s way harder.”

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Jim Zunti is a parent and newly appointed COVID-19 safety coordinator for Foothills GymStars. He said they need more flexibility and clarity in the mandated rules.

“You can have a bunch of girls training on their own and you add the coach and suddenly it becomes invalid, it doesn’t make logical sense,” Zunti said. “If you look at the beams and the other equipment, it’s really spread out everything is far apart more than two meters apart.

“In a place like this you can have to have people training on different apparatus in their own air column but we’ve been told it’s one on one, financially, gyms can’t sustain that.”

“If things remain like this, we have to close. There’s not enough money coming in to sustain this,” Sim said.

“We were 50 percent before and now this is one gymnast to one coach, that’s a ridiculous ratio in a space this size.”

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Tom McMillan, Alberta Health spokesperson, said the top priority is protecting the health of everyone involved and limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“Group classes are not allowed. Any training must be one-on-one. More than one athlete/trainer pair can be in the gym at one time, provided they maintain physical distancing from other pairs at all times,” McMillan said. “The gym would also still need to limit capacity to twenty-five per cent.”


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