Raising roof vital for Vernon rhythmic gymnastics club

New rules in sport require higher apparatus tosses; club can’t do it at current roof maximum

The Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club is turning to the public to help raise its roof at its private facility on a Vernon farm to meet new stands in the sport. (Contributed)

The Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club is turning to the public to help raise its roof at its private facility on a Vernon farm to meet new stands in the sport. (Contributed)

One Vernon gymnastics club is about to demonstrate why they’ve reached the ceiling of their sport.

The Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics club has been one of the Okanagan’s leading sport groups in producing national- and international-level athletes since it was founded by Vernon’s own Commonwealth Games champion and Olympian, Camille Martens, in 1997.

The team is facing a new challenge and need to raise their roof in order to ensure athletes can continue to compete at an elite level, following changes to their sport rules.

Effective Jan. 01, 2022, the new Code of Points (rule book for international level gymnastics) requires higher tosses of the apparatus. This means that without a high toss, athletes will not be awarded points, which will greatly impact their final score and placement.

A high toss is now defined as three times the height of the athlete when standing on tip toes with their hand reaching upwards. This means that the bare minimum height of a toss for some of their elite athletes is approximately 23 feet. Judges have to be able top say that the toss was clearly in the high category to count it.

The current indoor gym height is 18 feet. The club currently operates its own facility on a farm.

“Our ceiling seems high to many onlookers, but with the new rules, our athletes simply can’t meet the requirements with the current ceiling height,” said Martens. “We rent the Priest Valley Gym or Vernon Rec Centre auditorium when we can, but we really need all our athletes to have the opportunities to learn higher tossing techniques and to train them daily.

“We will need to apply for a variance with the RDNO and are hoping to get a few ideas from engineers/architects on ways that we could raise the roof with the shortest possible time without a facility. This community has always rallied to support its athletes. I am excited to see how we can collaboratively create this possibility for these dedicated and talented gymnasts.”

On Saturday, Nov. 27, the club will have a display at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre starting at 3 p.m. that will showcase its pre-competitive-, competitive- and elite-level athletes. The 75-minute demo will show the current ceiling limits athletes’ tosses and how a higher ceiling would change everything.

“If any supporters, architects, engineers, city or regional district officials would like free tickets, please contact us as we’d love to have you in the loop as we embark on this project,” said Martens.

Her club is known world-wide for promoting strong ethics, caring for its athletes, growing leaders and aiming for excellence.

During it’s 24 years of operation, the club has introduced thousands of local kids to the magical world of gymnastics. The club has been an active member of the Vernon community, participating in countless community events over the years. The club has led by example in creating an environment led by joy and is one of the top in Canada.

Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics is known for putting on large-scale theatre productions, the first in 1999 at the rec centre.

In 2001 the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre opened and the shows continued to grow in size and popularity. To date the club has produced more than 20 full theatre productions and countless other performances for local events. Each of our last 10 full productions have sold more than 3,500 seats and have helped support local and international charities.

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