It’s hard to blame Kiera Regnier for getting a little bent out of shape.
The nine-year-old Meadow Lake gymnast is excited to fly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida next month to participate in the Presidential Classic international gymnastics tournament, and rightfully so.
The only caveat: she’s competing on behalf of Cold Lake, Alta.
That’s because there’s no similar competitive gymnastics program here in Meadow Lake.
“It feels different because we live in a different province, and we go to a different province to practise,” Kiera said. “I’d feel a bit better (competing for my hometown) because most of my relatives live in Saskatchewan.”
Kiera and her mother Candace Regnier have been traveling to Cold Lake to participate in their competitive program 2-3 times a week for almost two years.
It all started when Kiera realized wasn’t enough equipment at the Meadow Lake Gymnastics Club to continually challenge her.
“So I took her to a summer camp in Cold Lake … And when the coach saw what she could do, they asked her to join the competitive team,” she said. “And it just went from there.”
Apart from the fact Kiera is competing for a different city, there’s also the hour and a half drive to Cold Lake which she does three times a week.
“It’s a little harder to focus because when you have a long drive, sometimes you just can’t go to sleep, and when you’re driving you’re wide-awake, and then as soon as you get there you’re all tired,” she said.
“Sometimes it can be a bit much.”
But there are also the benefits of a competitive program, which helps explain why she’s up at 6 a.m. every morning she has practice.
“I like that you have more equipment, and you can practise more because we have three hours (as opposed to one) to do gymnastics,” she said.
Kiera and Regnier would both like to see a competitive gymnastics program stretch out to Meadow Lake.
“We’d like to see more (competitive) gymnastics so other kids in Meadow Lake who don’t get to travel can get the same challenges here,” Regnier said.
“It would also show that kids that are from a small community and don’t have the means (to travel) can still make their dreams come true,” she added.
She notes it would also offer an additional sport, especially for girls, one which improves flexibility, balance and confidence.
While the privately-run Meadow Lake Gymnastics Club may be limited in its offerings, Regnier is still extremely grateful for its existence.
“We’re extremely blessed to have gymnastics in Meadow Lake, even for what it is,” she said. “We’re grateful, because if she didn’t start here, she wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. The Regniers hope the program can eventually expand to include a competitive option in Meadow Lake.
In the meantime, Kiera is excited to fly to Florida in order to practise some of her other athletic skills at Disney World.
“It’s our first time flying in a big plane,” she said. “And I get to go swimming with dolphins.”