The Dodds are no strangers to donning the Maple Leaf.
Kamloops Gymnastics and Trampoline Centre super siblings Gavin, 16, and Kristina, 18, have strutted their stuff at international events across the globe.
But representing Canada never gets old — and neither does competing at the world championships.
“It’s just such a big event because it’s always been the biggest event,” Gavin said. “For the athletes, they all agree this is the biggest one of the year, especially since it’s the lead-up for the Olympics.
“Not as much for me, but for lots of the other athletes, they’re maybe starting to try to make that team. The whole event, the atmosphere at the comp, is really huge.”
Gavin qualified to compete in the boys’ 15- and 16-year-old division in individual trampoline and double-mini trampoline at the 27th International Gymnastics Federation World Age Group Competitions, which get underway on Thursday and wrap up on Monday in Tokyo.
He was chosen by national team brass to participate in synchronized trampoline, along with friend and rival Kieran Lupish, an Ontarian.
“I have been really healthy, no injuries, feeling strong and feeling ready,” said Gavin, who will be competing for the fourth time at the world championships.
Kristina, who will age out of the junior division after this year, is planning to relish her third opportunity to compete at worlds, knowing how hard it is just to get there.
The Valleyview secondary graduate will be aiming to one-up her most recent performance at worlds — a ninth-place finish in double-mini last year in Russia.
“Coming ninth last year was a little bit sad because I just missed the finals by a very small margin,” said Kristina, who placed 14th in double-mini in the 15- and 16-year-old category at the 2017 world championships in Bulgaria.
“This year, I’m hoping to maybe, possibly, make finals and do a little better than I did last year.”
Incredible focus is required.
One poor pass can cost them a place in the finals, one quarter-second lapse in concentration can ruin medal hopes. And there are no guarantees there will be a next time.
“You have to go in with a positive mindset, knowing that you’ve done your routine at home a bunch of times before,” Kristina said. “You know you can do it. You have it in muscle memory.
“You just have to focus on the day and try and not worry about the outcome. Focus on the process.”
Gavin has been at the top of the heap.
The Type 1 diabetic established himself as one of the planet’s best when he placed first in double-mini at the 2016 world age group event in Denmark.
He followed in 2017 by claiming silver in double-mini at the world championships in Bulgaria, but Gavin also knows what it feels like to fall short.
Last year, he failed to qualify for the finals in Russia.
“It just wasn’t my best comp,” he said. “That happens and it’s all good.”
Gavin rebounded from a disappointing finish in individual competition at the Canada Winter Games in February in Red Deer by snaring bronze in double-mini at the International Tournament event in Spain in October.
He ranks that medal-winning performance (Lupish won silver, edging Gavin by a few points) up there with victory at worlds in 2015.
“At that Spanish invitational, not many people got to go from Canada,” Gavin said. “They selected me, which was really, really awesome.”
The venue for this week’s action is the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will house the trampoline events at the Olympic Summer Games and Paralympics in Tokyo.
Neither Dodd is expected to compete at the Japan Games, but Paris 2024 has long been on Gavin’s radar.
For now, the siblings’ fiercest competition will come at world championships.
And there’s nothing quite like wearing the Maple Leaf.
“I’m looking forward to getting to be with Team Canada again,” Kristina said. “It’s a really fun experience to get to compete with all those people on an international stage and just knowing you’re representing your country.”