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Port Coquitlam gymnast helps vault Canadian team to 2024 Summer Olympics

It's the first time Canada has earned an Olympic berth two years ahead of the competition
Port Coquitlam gymnast Sydney Turner is a step closer to realizing her dream of competing in the Olympics after she recently helped Canada's national team qualify for the team competition at the Paris games in 2024.

Sydney Turner may be Canada’s unexpected gymnastics star.

The 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Riverside Secondary recently helped boost Canada’s national team to a third-place finish at the world artistic gymnastics championships in Liverpool, England.

The result was unexpected as Canada was in eighth place after the first day of competition. It also automatically qualifies the team for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France – an historic first.

In fact, Turner’s presence on the national team was also unexpected as she was only named as its youngest athlete after she’d put in a top performance at the Gymnix international invitational meet in Montreal, Que., in March 2020.

Turner was on the ‘B’ team that wasn’t supposed to compete until Japan dropped out because of the COVID-19 situation in that country.

Turner said her entire career since taking up gymnastics when she was just two-and-a-half years old has been about tempered expectations.

She said she’s always just wanted to do her best and let the results fall where they may.

Turner’s long-time coach since she was five, Barbara Fraser at TAG gymnastics in Port Coquitlam, said her charge’s in-the-moment attitude toward her sport fuels her success because it takes the pressure off.

“It’s tough in this sport to withstand the pressure,” Fraser said.

Turner said that’s her demeanour toward all aspects of her life, from school to strengthening her technique on the vault.

“If you’re in a negative environment, it’s hard to get a good result,” she said.

Turner was just a recreational gymnast with a remarkable ability to win medals at every meet where she competed when she realized at 13 that a spot on Canada’s national team was within her grasp.

Her third-place standing at the Gymnix meet — tops of all the Canadians — finally brought it to her hands.

“I wasn’t supposed to compete,” Turner said. “So I just focussed on doing the best I could.”

Since attaining her status amongst the top Canadian female gymnasts, Turner’s competed at meets in countries like Hungary and Belgium. But the Worlds in England was the first time her mom travelled to see her in action.

Several other family members and relatives were in the stands as well.

Turner said that alone was enough to make the experience special, especially after the challenges of the previous two years when the COVID-19 pandemic had restricted her opportunities to train as well as compete and she also had to battle through injuries.

But when she was able to put in the performances of her life in the three disciplines in which she was entered — uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercises — that contributed to Canada’s remarkable vault up the standings, Turner said she “just didn’t believe it.” Fraser did though.

A coach for more than 30 years, she’s had a lot of athletes with big dreams tumble across her mats. But Turner, she said, has the focus and motivation to realize them, even if she doesn’t always realize it.

“It’s a process to get her to believe she is that good,” Fraser said, adding Turner’s strong support network that doesn’t pressure her has also been a contributing factor to her success.

While Canada’s place at the 2024 Olympics is secure, the gymnasts who helped achieve that aren’t assured they’ll be part of the team.

For the next two years they’ll have to continue to develop and attain top results at the national and international level in order to accumulate the points to retain their rankings.

For Turner, that means going to the gym five days a week to improve her strength and conditioning while also introducing new moves to her routines.

It will also give her a chance to work on her vault, which she admits has “always been a struggle” because, she said, she’s “more of a flexibility gymnast than a power gymnast.”

Fraser is confident her star athlete has it in her.

“She’s extremely meticulous in her preparation,” she said. “She’s a rare find.”

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