15th World Gymnaestrada opens in Helsinki, Finland

When I first stepped into the event’s main venue “Messukeskus” today in Helsinki, Finland I believed it! The halls were thrumming with the sounds of countries chanting their various songs, pulsing with the energy of thousands of people all passionate about gymnastics, and emblazoned with the colours of the various nation’s uniforms. The Principal of those nations is the host nation Finland with nearly 4,000 gymnasts, followed closely behind by Switzerland with 3,855, and Germany with 2,027. Canada is here with over 620 participants – so small by European standards, but mighty in voice! All told, there are nearly 21,000 participants from 53 different countries at this event (the 15th of its kind). It’s the largest event, in terms of international participants, that Finland has ever hosted and the hosts are justifiably proud to be welcoming the gymnastics world to their city.

The event kicked off today with the Opening Ceremonies, held at the historic Olympic stadium – site of the 1952 Olympic Games.

Team Canada was led onto the field by 19-year-old Davlynn Pedrick from Team Sask (TSG) – Canada’s largest contingent with 67 athletes ranging in age from 12 to 61. I didn’t have any luck tracking Davylnn down once we are all seated in the stands, but one of her teammates, Brittany Douville told me why Davlynn was selected to represent the team: “She is the most energetic and passionate person. She just loves gymnastics so much and she’s always ripping and ready to go and getting us fired up. So she was the right one to choose from our team.”

I also spoke to Team TSG’s assistant coach Michelle Kocur Rachey, who is also the head coach of Prairie Ribbons Rhythmic Gymnastics in Warman and Saskatoon, SK as we walked into the stadium.  Michelle, or Mick as she asked to be called, has attended five Gymnaestrada’s so I had to ask her what keeps her coming back, and she replied: “Meeting people, seeing different routines – just the general festivities, its total camaraderie. You get to meet so many people from around the world and everyone is just so friendly and passionate about the same thing.

”The all-encompassing message of “Gymnastics for All” was definitely evident in the performances at the ceremony which included routines from the smallest little “bumblebees” to senior performers of all genders that performed to music from “Gladiator” to “Grease” in a variety of different costumes.

The performances all kick-off tomorrow with more than 200 hours of gymnastics performances staged in 15 different venues. Each group will perform their piece three times, with other special performances in the evenings. Stay tuned for more stories from the event!

By Julie Forget, GCG Director of Communications & Marketing.