Boys excelling at Amherst Aerials

Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST - What athlete in the world, except a male gymnast, is able to execute the iron cross?
They hang several feet from the ground, holding the rings at arm's length straight out from their shoulders, often going straight into a handstand.
It's little wonder gymnasts are often considered, pound-for-pound, the strongest, most fit athletes in the world.
And now, for the first time, the Amherst Aerials Gymnastics Club is training boys for competition on the rings and other apparatus.
"Joey and Kyle started with us at the beginning of the season and it's been a lot of fun," gymnastics coach Michelle Landry said.
"They've really come a long way this year."
Grade 9 Amherst Regional High School student Kyle Johnson came to the club with experience in trampoline, while Grade 7 Springhill High School student Joey Carignan came to the club with previous gymnastics experience in Ontario.
"They both have their strengths," Landry said. "With his trampoline background, Kyle has the body awareness to control himself in mid-air, while Joey brings real good flexibility, strength and body control."
Landry said both athletes had to work hard to build up the upper-body strength needed to compete on apparatus such as the parallel bars, the pommels and the rings.
"It was a real challenge for them at first," she said.
"But they've really pulled through."
And Landry said training boys is quite different than dealing with girls.
"It's a different dynamic. Girls are emotional and boys just want to get out there and get it over with."
Asked how they like training with the girls, the boys got a humourous warning before they answered. Veteran gymnast Samantha Landry said, "you guys better watch what you say."
Both athletes laughed and said the girls, "treat them good and make it a lot of fun."
Johnson's favourite events are the vault and the parallel bars, while Carignan's favourites are the rings and the floor.
"I like the rings the best because it's tough to do, it's a real challenge," Carignan said.
"I like the parallel bars because it's fun to do the dismount," Johnson said.
Both athletes say they enjoy the gymnastics club and will continue with competitive gymnastics as long as they can.
And Landry hopes they stick it out.
"Hopefully we can build a boys program," Landry said.
"Eventually, we'd like to have a full boys program right alongside the girls program so they don't have to practise with the girls."

Organizations: Amherst Aerials Gymnastics Club, Amherst Regional High School, Grade 7 Springhill High School Johnson's

Geographic location: Amherst, Ontario

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