Pan bronze highlight for Bernard

Erika Bernard. - Contributed
Erika Bernard.
— image credit: Contributed

The new year promises to be a good one for local gymnast Erika Bernard.

She is fresh off a team bronze at the 2016 Pan American Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, held in Merida, Mexico in November.

Three team members each competed in the hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon events, and received a team score.

The medal is a highlight in the career of the national team member.

“It was an honour to represent Canada, and it showed hard work pays off.”

Bernard has competed in international events that have taken her to Portugal, Spain and Greece.

She attends Meadowridge School in Maple Ridge, and is in Grade 11. She’s there mornings, then leaves for training at the Adagio Rhythmic Academy near UBC in the afternoons.

Gymnastics is a full-time job. She trains 40 hours per week, and catches up on homework on weekends.

The training starts with physical conditioning, then goes to “intense flexibility.” The girls put their feet on chairs and do the “over-splits” until they touch the floor. They use stacking chairs to get a deeper stretch, and she gets to where she needs to stack four or five.

Next comes apparatus handling techniques, then work on their routines, topped off with more conditioning.

Like all elite gymnasts, Bernard started young – as a toddler. By the age of six, “everything started to click,” and at the age of eight she was in the national stream – a young girl already focussed on competing for Canada.

Despite all the training, asked what makes a good rhythmic gymnast, she says it’s all in the approach.

“It’s focus. If you’re focussed you can achieve anything,” she said. “If you have the right mental state, you can go to extremes.”

She gives her mother credit, too – Jennifer Hill-Bernard is a ballet teacher who has taught her daughter the kind of grace that judges find irresistible.

The reward for all the hard work is being able to travel and compete for Canada.

“When you enter the stadium, you just take a deep breath and feel like a champion.”

In 2014, Bernard had an opportunity to train in Bulgaria for a summer, and she will be looking for future opportunities to train in eastern European powerhouses of gymnastics.

“I just want to continue training to the top of my ability, stay on the Canadian team, and compete at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

She said the Tokyo 2020 Games have been in her sights, and medaling in international competition brings that dream closer to reality.

“It’s a more realistic goal – it’s achievable.”


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