Juggling education and an active social life isn’t the only balancing act Erika Bernard performs on a daily basis.
Going into her Grade 12 year at Meadowridge Academy in Pitt Meadows, Bernard has found herself on the upswing of a burgeoning rhythmic gymnastics career and has set herself up well for the long run.
She’s only added achievement after achievement since she took the sport up as a young girl, but is able to take it all in stride like an athlete should.
Her career got another shot in the arm when she was named to the Canadian national team, joining girls across the country to represent Canada in international competitions.
If all goes well, Bernard will be one of the hundreds of Canadians to don the red and white as they walk into Tokyo Stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games.
If you think that has weighed on her at all, then you haven’t gotten to know Bernard.
Her aspirations to become an Olympic champion is as strong now as it’s ever been.
“They’ve already sanctioned and chosen me amongst a bunch of girls, so what I have to do is go and get my position,” Bernard said. “It’s huge because the World Cup circuit is the biggest competition right now, and the world championships are coming up so I’ll get to be a part of that.”
There’s a laundry list of things Bernard and her teams have been able to accomplish.
They placed third in the Pan-American Rhythmic Gymnastics competition in Merida, Mexico at the end of last year, and it’s only gone up from there with the announcement of her placement on the national squad.
Bernard actually got word she had been accepted to Team Canada in two ways, perhaps a sign of the times. She got an actual letter from the organization, but that was followed up by an email confirming her placement.
She’s planning on heading to more World Cup competitions (she has entered four already) and will be apart of Team Canada at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia.
“I have a good opportunity to go to more Commonwealth Games, but I feel this one is the most secure one for me,” she notes.
As things ramp up again through the winter months and into next summer, Bernard is hoping to add more strength and technique to her training.
Despite coming from what’s considered a relatively small town compared to some of the world’s biggest cities, the hype and spotlight never seem to matter much to Bernard. She relishes the fact she gets to do what she loves in front of packed crowds and amazing atmospheres.
“My favourite part about travelling and the big competitions is not just the venues, but that they get bigger as the higher levels you get because you’re in things like world cups,” she explains.
“It’s the environment and the cheering. You get pumped up before you go out on the carpet and you just know how to perform. Not just for yourself but to put on a show for them as well.
“Then as you’re doing all these tricks and throwing hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons, you feel so powerful because you know you’re putting on something for them to watch.”
She’s keeping her education in her back pocket though, as much as she wants to make rhythmic gymnastics a full-time gig. But even if it doesn’t work out for her in professional gymnastics, her love and knowledge of the sport translates well to her desired career off the carpet: kinesiology.
“It’s a natural fit because in gymnastics you’re using a lot of movement and muscles and stretching so it’s all right up my alley,” she says.
Erika will move to Toronto in October to join the National Training Centre and get full-time practice and training in for future events like qualifying for Tokyo 2020. There she will secure her position and start the long two-year grind to the top.
“Tokyo is just a huge event, it’s my lifelong dream becoming a reality which is so crazy. I’m just fortunate that my family is behind me and I can realize it’s all finally happening.”
Family is often the backbone of a strong athlete, and combined with Bernard’s fierce competitiveness and zest for life, Tokyo 2020 may just be another hoop to jump through.