Yellowknife twins take historic steps for NWT gymnastics
Yellowknife’s Tai Leathem just won bronze at gymnastics’ Western championships. Now, twin sister Emma is the first NWT female to qualify for Nationals.
Westerns, held in late April in Manitoba, represented NWT gymnasts’ first competition in three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nationals take place in Richmond, BC in late May.
Tai, one of three boys on the team, came home from Westerns with a bronze medal in vault. He described the experience as “confusing,” adding: “I’m good at vault, but don’t like to train it.”
His coach, John Tram, said Tai’s hard work and dedication earned him the medal. Scoring 12.350, Tai was only .05 points from silver and 0.2 from gold.
“It was just his landing,” said Tram. “If he had a better landing, he easily would have been first.”
After taking time away from gymnastics last year and only resuming his training a few months beforehand, Tai went to Westerns hoping to have fun and show off his skills. He hadn’t expected a medal, but told Cabin Radio it was “nice to come home with some hardware.”
Tram said Emma, who also competed at Westerns, will become the first female gymnast from the NWT to compete at Canadian Championships.
“It feels awesome,” she said. “It’s intimidating, but in a good way.”
Emma said she surprised herself at Westerns.
“I quit gymnastics last June and then came back in February, so I’ve just been trying to get back into shape,” she said.
“My goal is to just be stronger than I was before the last competition, and also just being happy with any results I get, because for me it’s a big accomplishment to celebrate.”
First in the NWT
This year’s Canadian Championships mark the first time any gymnast from the NWT has attended the competition, male or female, since Tram himself competed in 2006.
“It’s hard to balance Grade 12 and this level of gymnastics,” said Tram. “I’ve coached Emma for a long time and I’m very proud of everything she does. She works very hard all the time, and I’m so proud to see her get to this level.
“Being the first in the NWT is amazing. There haven’t been female gymnasts at this level before. Emma has been able to progress, and we’ve been able to work with her and get her there.”
Emma and Tai are both graduating from high school this year. “I think I’m going to call it quits after Nationals. I’m really content at leaving it there,” said Emma, who will attend the Vancouver Island University in the fall.
“It’s pretty cool to do gymnastics with my twin,” she said of their time training and competing together. “We definitely push each other and support each other to be better.”
Emma’s strict training regime to ensure she peaks for Nationals includes conditioning, practising her routines, perfecting skills and rest days, all strategically planned by her coach.
Emma will compete in uneven bars and vault at the Canadian Championships from May 26-30. The same weekend, Tai will compete at Territorials at the Yellowknife Gymnastics Club.