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Bonnyville gymnasts hitting the provincial mat

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(left to right) Rihanna Poltorak, 13, and Chaya Koluk, 14, from Ashlin Gymnastics Club in Bonnyville are going to the 2020 Alberta Winter Games after attending trials on Dec. 8. Photo by Robynne Henry

BONNYVILLE - Two local gymnasts are hoping to continue their success on the provincial level.

After months of hard work and training, Chaya Koluk, 14, and Rihanna Poltorak, 13, from the Ashlin Gymnastics Club in Bonnyville, qualified for the 2020 Alberta Winter Games taking place in Airdrie from Feb. 14 to 17.

The pair were up against some tough competition to make the Zone 7 team during trials on Dec. 8 in Tawatinaw, AB. The top four athletes were chosen to move on, and both Koluk and Poltorak found themselves qualifying in beam, bars, floor, and vault.

Poltorak came in third overall for the level seven category, after tying for second in vault, placing third in floor, and claiming fourth place in both bars and beam.

Koluk placed second overall in level six, coming in first for vault and bars and third for floor and beam.

“I was so excited to get the gold medals,” Koluk exclaimed, adding she was surprised with where she placed in one particular event.

“When we were competing, I fell on beam. I expected not to place at all and I still got third.”

This marks the gymnast’s fifth year involved in the sport. After attending an open gym session at Ashlin Gymnastics five years ago, a coach encouraged her to try competitive and she hasn’t looked back since.

Remembering that it’s okay if you fall is a lesson Koluk learned during trials, and she’s going to carry that with her during practices.

While this was Koluk’s first time qualifying for the Alberta Winter Games, Poltorak also participated in the 2018 event. The young athlete feels her previous experience gave her an edge when she stepped onto the mat at trials.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to qualify again, but I felt good about it afterwards.”

She said she’s going to concentrate on improving in the events she didn’t medal in.

“I just want to make those better.”

It was after seeing her sisters enjoy the sport seven years ago that sparked  Poltorak’s interest. Since then she’s worked her way to provincial competitions on more than one occasion. 

Doing her best at the games is one of Poltorak’s goals.

Coach Kirby Palkovic stressed consistency is going to be a focus for both athletes going forward.

“A lot of the things they can hit really well most of the time, but when their nerves are kicking in, it’s kind of hit or miss. That’s one thing we’re going to be working on the most, and showmanship. A lot of them are very shy in terms of dancing and showing off their personality, so that’s a big thing for us,” she explained.

The bar was set very high for the first competition of the season.

“The judging is always tougher for the official meets. They weren’t used to seeing the scores quite so low, but it was the same for everyone,” Palkovic stated.

Their coach offered her congratulations to the young athletes.

“Hard work pays off, and I hope they’re excited to move on to the next level.”

Both Koluk and Poltorak are glad to be headed to the provincial competition together.

“I was really happy for her (Poltorak), because then we can go together and we won’t be alone,” expressed Koluk.

Along with gymnastics, the 2020 Alberta Winter Games will see athletes from across the province competing in sports including alpine skiing, archery, hockey, ringette, and wrestling.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle



Robynne Henry

About the Author: Robynne Henry

Reporter for the Bonnyville Nouvelle
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