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Greatest Canadian gymnast takes aim at GC2018

Gymnastics
2 Jan 2018

It’s worth pausing to appreciate just how much Ellie Black has achieved in her relatively short sporting career. Aged 22, she is already the greatest Canadian gymnast of all time.

Her fifth-place finish in the all-around at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – the highest ever for a Canadian – was impressive enough. But it was on home turf in Montreal this autumn that she confirmed her potential to be the very best: the Nova Scotian put together an astonishingly consistent package of disciplines to win the 2017 World Championship all-around silver medal – another first for her country.

She’s a certainty to entertain the crowd at Gold Coast 2018 – and is the defending champion on the balance beam, after winning gold at Glasgow 2014. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that even a gymnast of her calibre and form will necessarily dominate in Australia.

“The competition is going to be incredibly tight,” Black said.

“The British girls in particular are strong. They have an awesome team and are doing incredibly well. But I’m looking forward to competing against them. The Commonwealth athletes are very friendly and there’s a great sportsmanship as well as a great rivalry.

“Gold Coast is a big goal for me in 2018, a major target. The standard is very high and you have to perform at your best to get a medal. I’m really looking forward to it. Any opportunity to represent my country is a lot of fun.”

2014 was Black’s true breakthrough year internationally, in Glasgow, she was the only female gymnast to break the English team’s stranglehold on gold. Claudia Fragapane won the vault, floor and all-around, Rebecca Downie took the uneven bars and England triumphed in the team event – but Black prevailed on the balance beam and added silver in the vault and bronze on the floor.

“It was one of my first multi-sports events and I learned a lot from that Commonwealth Games,” she said.

“Not everything went perfectly but it was a good experience for me. To win the beam was incredible, and I was so happy to perform for Canada.

“The vault has always been my favourite event – because you go as hard as you can and it’s a one-shot deal. It’s exciting, because all the other events need multiple skills to make up a routine. But the beam just went well in Glasgow.

“I’d love to win more medals at Gold Coast – and hopefully the team competition is also something we can improve on. It didn’t go so well in Glasgow, but this time will be a great opportunity to see how the team is doing.

“We’ve got some very good new juniors coming through and it’ll be nice to get a measure of them. The fans should look out for Ana Padurariu, who is doing awesome. She could become a big part of this Canada team.”

Ellie Black won gold on the balance beam at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Ellie Black won gold on the balance beam at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Australia is uncharted territory for Black, meanwhile. “I can’t believe I’ve never been to Australia. I’ve always wanted to go, so that’s another reason I’m really excited about the Gold Coast. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, a great spot with lovely people. It’s going to be an adventure.

“I love multi-sports events, too. You get to stay in the (athletes) village, meet a bunch of new people and watch different sports when possible. I like diving and cycling sports, so if I get the chance, I’d love to watch them. And there are lots of different countries at a Commonwealth Games, so you meet lots of new people.”

Black acknowledges that with a superstar like Simone Biles putting the sport in the international headlines, and the likes of Morgan Hurd (who beat Black to World Championship all-around gold) also attracting huge attention, there’s never been a better time to be a gymnast.

“It’s a truly exciting time for the sport,” she said.

“It’s growing so much, and it’s great to see more kids involved. It doesn’t matter whether they get to a high level or not, it’s something that teaches you so many life lessons that you can apply to school, jobs, and communications.

“I don’t try to look too far ahead in terms of ambitions. I like to stay in the moment and enjoy myself – the goals come along as you go. But I had some downtime after the Olympics, which you need to sort out your mind and body, and now I’m starting to think about routines for the Gold Coast. It’s fun. You put things together, find out what works and what doesn’t.

“It’s a work in progress. I’m also studying for a degree so I’m very busy, but that’s the way I like it. I love travelling and meeting awesome people, and I’m sure Gold Coast will be another great chapter of that.”

This article was produced by AMP Media.

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