Elite Sarnia gymnast making the jump to senior ranks

Sarnia gymnast Rachel Riley practices a routine on the balance beam at Bluewater Gymnastics Club. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

A Sarnia gymnast is in Calgary this week fighting to retain her position on Team Canada.

Rachel Riley is one of 100 Canadian gymnasts competing at the 2020 Elite Canada Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Competition.

“I feel pretty confident,” Riley, 15, said during a practice at the Bluewater Gymnastics Club last week.

“I had to sit back though from an injury and I may have not been prepared as I wanted to be, but I’ll just go there and do my best.”

The St. Patrick’s High school student joined Team Canada last year. But to maintain position, gymnasts must continue performing well at select competitions, said Pilar Moldonado, Bluewater’s head coach.

The points earned determine national rankings and who will represent Canada at future events.

Those attending the competition in Calgary are also vying for spots on the national PanAm and Olympic teams. The

National Championships are in May.

Sarnia gymnast Rachel Riley, 15, and her coach Pilar Moldonado.
Troy Shantz

This is the first time Riley has competed as a senior. Her strength is vault, but the goal is to deliver consistent results in all four events: vault, balance beam, uneven bars and floor, her coach said.

Uneven bars is the discipline offering the greatest room for improvement, Riley said — to which Moldonado chimed in, “For now, for now.”

Riley trains 25 hours a week at the Sarnia club, which she joined almost a decade ago.

A finger injury prevented fellow Bluewater rising star Jovie Richardson from travelling to Calgary, Moldonado said.

The club has petitioned the governing body to allow the high-performance junior to compete at nationals despite missing the qualifier.

Moldonado is an Ontario-certified gymnastics judge and national team coach with 20 years experience who joined the local club in November.

The Toronto native is still getting to know its 55 competitive gymnasts, she said.

“I’m loving it. It’s a great community and the kids are super-hard workers.”

Pilar replaces David Brubaker, a former Bluewater coach of 29 years.

Bluewater Gymnastics severed all ties with Brubaker and his wife after he was investigated for inappropriately touching a former student. A Sarnia court eventually found him not guilty.