February 10, 2016
Led by Level 8 gymnast Sydney Wells, a 16-member team from Nassau 'Nastics will travel to Orlando, Florida, this weekend, to take part in the Presidential Gymnastics Classic. The four-day event, which is sanctioned by USA Gymnastics, will accommodate hundreds of young gymnasts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. The meet starts on Friday, and ends on Monday.
Male and Female Recreational Coach at Nassau 'Nastics Rashad Cunningham said that the Atlantis Crown Invitational at the Atlantis Resort in December served as the perfect prelude for the international tournament this weekend. He's looking forward to a strong performance from the girls.
"They did very well at the Atlantis Crown, so we anticipate good all-around performances at this meet," said Cunningham. "We expect their performance from the Atlantis Crown to carry over into this event. The girls have been preparing well, and we have been working very hard with them. We're looking for a lot of medals from this meet."
Competing for The Bahamas this weekend will be Level 8 gymnast Wells; Bayli Major, Sienna and Savannah Tinker, Taeja and Azariah Smith, Taemar Gilbert, Sasha Khellawan, Jayda Calderin and Alexandria Moore in Level 1; Morgan Bethel and Keandra Smith in Level 2; Level 3 gymnasts Danielle Moore and Marisa Hield; Level 4 gymnast Alia Beneby; and Excel Silver Hope Smith. They are all between the ages of five and 12.
"A lot of these girls have already competed internationally, so going up against foreign competition wouldn't be anything new to them. We expect those girls to build off their experiences," said Cunningham. "For the ones who are new to this kind of competition, of course there might be some butterflies, but we expect them to adjust well. The Atlantis Crown Invitational was good tune-up for them."
Alia Beneby, a 10-year-old Level 4 gymnast, said that she is very excited to be making the trip. She will compete in all of the events, and her favorite gymnast is American three-time World all-around champion Simone Biles.
"I love the bars (uneven bars) and I'm looking forward to that event the most," said Beneby. "This should be a lot of fun. I've been here for two years and I enjoy my time here. I'm looking forward to competing against the international competition."
Savannah Tinker, 11, is a rookie to international competition, but said she is looking forward to competing and making her mark in gymnastics. She will be competing in all of the events as well - uneven bars, balance beam, vault and floor exercise.
"This is just my second competition but I am very excited and looking forward to it," she said. "I love gymnastics. I could feel myself improving, especially on my favorite event, the floor. I'm not nervous at all - I feel very comfortable. I've learned a lot in just one year."
Kianna Dean and Simone Hall made history for the sport of gymnastics here in The Bahamas last year, becoming the first Bahamian athletes to compete in the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) World Gymnastics Championships, and Cunningham feels that could only improve the competitive nature of the athletes here as they strive for regional and global recognition.
"With those two competing for The Bahamas, that served as motivation and encouragement, especially for the younger ones," said Cunningham. "That boosted the morale of the girls here. They have developed a love for the sport, and a lot of them are now looking forward to competing."
A team of 16 female gymnasts from Nassau 'Nastics will compete in the Presidential Gymnastics Classic this weekend in Orlando, Florida. They are preparing for a competition. Photos: Ahvia Campbell
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