The Fort Frances Gymnastics Academy was fortunate to have a talented young German gymnast by the name of Weronicka Smigielska grace its club this season.
And the 18-year-old native of Dusseldorf (she actually was born in Poland) has become quite a fixture here in Fort Frances while she is completing her Grade 12 studies at Falls High School across the river as part of an exchange student program there.
In fact, coach Joleen Debenetti said the local club has benefited greatly from the time Smigielska has spent practising with them.
“She has been a big help with us choreographing routines and teaching the girls her routines,” Debenetti noted at practice last week. “She seems to like it here and the kids really like her and look up to her. She’s been really neat.
“Their training over there [Germany] is more intense than here and the kids train at a higher level,” she added.
Club president Betty Grynol agreed Smigielska has helped many of the younger gymnasts.
“She has been a wonderful example to the other athletes,” enthused Grynol. “This young lady displays tremendous skill, motivation, and love of the sport. She is a pleasure to coach and watch with her positive attitude and focus.”
Smigielska, who will be returning to Germany at the end of the school year, admitted she’s definitely seen the difference in how the two clubs train and practice for competitions.
“Back in Germany, we have a much bigger club and they are like family. Here, [the gymnasts] are more independent,” she said. “I show them some things that we do [back home] like warm-ups and the more skills we practice.”
Helping out younger gymnasts is nothing new for the personable gymnast, who taught her own class in Germany for three years, with students ranging from a three to four-year-old age group and another one consisting of ones aged eight to 13.
Meanwhile, Smigielska also admitted it will be difficult moving back to Germany.
“When I go back in two months, it will be hard to leave because of all the friends here,” she remarked. “When I left Germany, I knew I would be back. Here, I might not be back.”
Experienced in all levels of gymnastics, Smigielska said the floor is her favourite routine.
“I like to tumble, and I like the floor because you can’t fall from the floor,” laughed the 5’6” gymnast. “I’m the kind of person who likes to learn on my own.” Smigielska earlier placed first overall in the senior open category at a meet in Thunder Bay and she’ll have another chance to strike gold when Fort Frances hosts the Springfest Invitational Artistic meet April 10--the same day as her birthday.
And she would like nothing less than winning another first as a birthday present to herself.