Ten Team China gymnasts and their coaches made a pit stop last week at the Pine Valley Gym Centre in Tawatinaw on their way to compete at the 2017 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Montreal from Oct. 2-8.
The gymnasts have been training locally since Sept. 21 in order to adapt to the time change. Many of the athletes are Olympic gold medallists, or have taken gold at the World Championships and the China National Games.
On Sept. 23, they trained in front of 50 people, including young gymnasts from Toronto and Edmonton and other parts of Canada.
After viewing their training, the spectators sat down for a banquet and meet and greet that evening.
“Gosh, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to this place,” said Pine Valley owner Dom Kriangkum.
“We just love to share that. It’s not very often you get this opportunity — world-class athletes in Tawatinaw. This is an awesome opportunity and we just want to share it with all the fans.”
Liang Cheng, president of Inspire Sports, help co-ordinate the Team China connection through his experience as a Team China gymnast and Team Canada coach.
“Dom and I invite Team China from time to time to come to Canada for training and competitions, and then we send Team Canada to China for the same thing,” he said.
“It’s like a sports culture exchange … They focus on their training here and taste the difference from the other side of the world.”
Cheng coached Kriangkum’s son Bobby in artistic gymnastics since he was five years old.
Bobby went on to represent Thailand in four World Championships while Kriangkum’s daughter represented Canada.
“I’ve known Dom for almost 20 years, it’s become like a family,” Cheng said. “Dom’s my mentor, I learn so much from him.”
As this was their final preparation for the World Championships, the Chinese coaches and athletes were very busy over the last few days getting ready.
Cheng said he was sure a few of the gymnasts would come back from Montreal as World Champions, if they weren’t already.
With this calibre of athletes in the area, he said this was a good opportunity for Canadians to watch how Chinese gymnasts train.
“There’s a different type of training, different way of doing things, so it’s good to open eyes and have a bigger vision for both sides,” he said.
Having worked in both countries, he said the similarities come down to working hard, no matter what you do. The differences, though, come down to the system.
“In Canada, its physical literacy, fundamental movement,” he said. “Gymnastics is one of the fundamental movement sports. In China also, but it’s leaning more to the competitive (side). The government supports it more and puts the best kids together for training and puts the resources together.
“In Canada, it’s more free and has a different way of coaching — it’s an immigrant country with people from all over. Both sides could learn and help each other.”
Cheng noted that with China hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022, the Pine Valley Snow Resort and ski hill would be a good training ground for Chinese winter sports athletes.
“It’s really good training for other countries that come here,” he said.