By Ian Webster on July 6, 2017
On the heels of a third-place finish in the all-around competition at the Canadian Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Montreal last month, Merritt’s Drew Kanigan has been named to this country’s national junior (14 to 15 years old) team.
The announcement was made on June 30 by Karl Balisch, Program Director – Artistic Gymnastics in a press release issued by Gymnastics Canada.
Kanigan, 14, received the news just as his school year was finishing up last Thursday.
“I was pretty excited,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t something I was expecting.”
Montreal was Kanigan’s first national championships. He admitted that he was pretty nervous. Fortunately, his dad Vince was in Quebec with him, in the capacity of a chaperone for Team BC.
“The first couple of days of training at nationals were tough,” said the young Kanigan. “They had a different brand of equipment. The (parallel and high) bars were a lot stiffer and didn’t bounce as much. It took a while to get used to them.”
Conversely, Kanigan had to get used to a platform floor that was way bouncier.
“It was almost five feet off the ground,” he said. “Because it was so springy, I was able to add a new skill to my floor exercise program – a front layout sommersault with a double twist.”
In the all-around competition, Kanigan picked up the bronze medal by finishing third in the p-bars, placing fourth in both the high bar and rings, and finishing fifth in floor, sixth on vault and seventh on pommel horse.
Kanigan’s consistency qualified him for five out of a possible six individual event finals on Sunday morning. His best placing there was a tie for third in floor exercise.
By being named to Canada’s national team, Kanigan will have the opportunity to attend a number of high-calibre training camps in the coming year.
“And next year, if I’m still on the national team, hopefully I’ll be able to compete for Canada internationally,” said Kanigan.
“Drew’s athleticism shines through, and he has such a great head on his shoulders. He’s a good competitor — able to stay calm under pressure. It makes a huge difference. I’m pretty excited to see where this guy goes,” – national team coach Tony Smith.
A Grade 10 student at Merritt Secondary beginning in September, Kanigan will continue to train at the Kamloops Gymnastics Club, under revered coach Hisayoshi Takahashi, otherwise known as “Mr. T.”
Unfortunately, come September, Kanigan will lose his long-time training partner and fellow national-team member, Scott Nabata, who is heading off to Toronto to begin chiropractic school.
“It’ll make things a bit more challenging,” said his Kanigan’s dad. “Scott has been so terrific in the past. He’s like a second coach for Drew.”
Nabata has had his own challenges recently. He tore his Achilles tendon this past season, and has been slowly rehabbing it for the last few months. At Nationals in Montreal, he only competed in the pommel horse event.
“[Scott] is slowly starting to work on the other apparatus,” said Kanigan, “except for vault. And he’s also not doing dismounts.”
The Kanigan family is in Campbell River this week on a bit of a holiday. That’s about it for vacation time for the gymnast in the family. Beginning on Monday, he plans to be in the gym in Kamloops five days a week, for four-and-a-half hours each session.
“He wants to be there,” said Kanigan’s dad. “He loves the training. He came back from Nationals knowing there were some specific things he needed to work on, like more release moves.
National team coach Tony Smith said that the young Kanigan has a bright future in the sport based on what he saw in Montreal in May.
“Drew wasn’t even on my radar going into this year, but he had a great performance at the Canadians championships.
“What really sold me on this young man was some videos that Drew’s coach, Mr. Takahashi, sent me of what Drew has been working on lately. The level of skill that he is working on right now is truly exceptional for a boy of his age.
“I’m really happy to see Drew develop like he has,” said Smith from Calgary, where he is overseeing an elite training camp for Canada’s senior athletes.
“Drew’s athleticism shines through, and he has such a great head on his shoulders. He’s a good competitor — able to stay calm under pressure. It makes a huge difference. I’m pretty excited to see where this guy goes.”
So are we all.