Fonthill gymnast looking to medal at provincials
From an early age, Kevin and Jo-Anne McCulligh knew their youngest daughter Bridget would have an aptitude for gymnastics.
“She was always doing stuff around the house and as soon as she went to the gym, they recognized her abilities and put her in the competitive program right away,” Kevin said. “From there, she just took to it naturally.”
Bridget started doing gymnastics at age two and Kevin recalls her doing a press to handstand (handstand done starting from either a standing or sitting position) at a gymnastics club when she was four and half years old.
“The coach stopped what she was doing and brought the other coaches over because they hadn’t seen a girl that young do it because it takes a lot of strength,” he said. “She has always had a lot of strength.”
The 10-year-old Fonthill resident arrived at the Niagara Falls Lightning Gymnastics Club four years ago as an ODP (Ontario Development Program) gymnast and she has flown through the various levels.
Last year competing in Level 6 at the provincial championships, she was first on the beam, second on the floor and 10th overall to earn the club’s Level 6-10 Achievement Award.
Next week, the Grade 5 student at St. Alexander’s will compete in Level 7 at the provincials in Windsor. In the qualifiers leading up to the provincials, Bridget was: first on the vault and floor and third overall in the first qualifier; third on the vault and beam and fourth overall in the second qualifier; second on the vault and fifth overall in the third qualifier; and, first on the vault and floor and fourth overall in the fourth qualifier.
Andrei Gorodetskii, who coaches Bridget along with Valentina Kashkevich, feels she has great abilities and potential in gymnastics.
“She has advanced quickly in her levels and we have brought her to Level 7,” he said. “It’s a pretty big jump.”
Gorodetskii credits Bridget’s dedication for helping her advance quickly.
“Now she is in the gym 20 hours a week training,” he said. “That’s lots of hours to put in and that’s why she is progressing.
“Her attitude is good.”
Bridget enjoys the sport.
“It’s fun to come and I like competing,” she said.
That attitude has Bridget heading towards even higher levels in gymnastics.
“We are focusing on the national program in the future, but it will take years to get there,” Gorodetskii said. “Sport is sport and who knows what will happen?”
Unlike many sports where being small is a disadvantage, Bridget’s small build is an advantage. She was born prematurely and weighed two pounds, eight ounces. She is now 4-foot-5 and weighs 67 pounds.
“She is tiny, but that’s what gymnastics is about,” Gorodetskii said. “It’s not like she is too small, but when you are smaller it is easier to flip, it’s easier to lift and it’s easier in gymnastics to master more difficult skills.”
Bridget said the secret to her success is lots of hard work and love for the sport.
“I just like doing it,” she said.
That love is most evident at the McCulligh’s home.
“That’s all she does when she is home whether it’s doing extra handstands or we have a beam and a bar at home in the basement,” Kevin said. “She is always listening to music on YouTube from all of the top gymnasts and doing her own mini routines with them using her own choreography.”
Bridget’s favourite apparatus is the floor.
“It’s fun and I get to smile,” she said.
Gorodetskii loves working with Bridget.
“It is a pleasure to work with her. She is a nice kid,” he said. “She has a nice sense of honour and it is fun to socialize with her.
Bridget, who played travel soccer for Club Roma last summer, has lofty goals heading to the provincial championships.
“Last year I won two medals and I am hoping to win another one again,” she said.
She describes Level 7 as “kinda harder” than Level 6.
“Tumbling is a lot different,” she said.
Other members of the Niagara Falls Lightning Gymnastics Club who have qualified for the Level 6-10 divisions of the provincial artistic gymnastics meet April 5-8 in Windsor are: Chloe Theriault, Level 8, age 16; Alexia Partheniou, Level 7, age 11; Morgan Collins, Level 6, age 16; Ashtynn Caldwell, Level 6, age 15; Riley Wilson, Level 6, age 13; Ariya Schmidt, Level 6, age 9; and, alternate Delaney Passero, Level 7, age 13.
All the girls completed at either three or four qualifiers this year. Gymnastics Ontario takes an average of their two best all around scores (combined vault, bars, beam and floor) to determine qualifiers. The top 32 athletes for each age and level qualify for the all around provincial championships and the top eight for ages 14 and older for event finals.
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