Annalisa Bynoe has been slaving over her twister.
“It’s kind of like an aerial, which is a cartwheel with no hands,” the 11-year-old Riptech Diving athlete explained on Thursday at the Tournament Capital Centre. “You have to do that off the board and land with your hands by your side and it’s hard not to over-rotate. You can slap your back on the water. But that’s part of the sport — you just have to get back up and do it again.”
The Parkcrest elementary student and her teammates have been doing it over — and over, and over, and over — again all season, trying and failing and trying again, determined to be ready for this weekend’s big event, the Canadian Novice Diving National Championships.
Eleven Riptech products qualified for nationals, nine of whom will attend the event, which will run on Saturday and Sunday at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre. The novice division is the second-highest in the country, a step down from the development stream and one up from recreational.
Athletes ages 18 and under from as far east as Winnipeg will participate this weekend, with about 90 divers expected to pierce water.
Sawyer Niedziejko, 10, is the most advanced Riptech diver, one score away from qualifying for the Junior Development National Championships, which will run from July 18 to July 21 in Regina.
“I quit other sports for this because it’s the best sport I’ve ever had. It’s super fun and I honestly couldn’t imagine what life would be like without it,” said Niedziejko, who received the 2018 BC Diving Top Athlete Award for men’s Group E (seven- and eight-year-old) athletes. “It’s surprised me. It’s taken over my life. I honestly have nothing else I do, no other sports, nothing.”
Bynoe and Niedziejko were among the Riptech group dry-land training in the Kamloops Gymnastics and Trampoline Centre on Thursday, led by coach Eryn Bulmer Barrett, a two-time Olympian diver.
“Diving is a scary sport,” Bulmer Barrett said, with one eye on club members training on trampolines. “If you can make the scary part fun, that’s key, especially at the developmental age.
“Like gymnastics or some of the more extreme sports, if you’re not paying attention, as you start to learn the harder dives, you can get hurt.
“The key is to build great, strong, basic fundamentals so that every step they take is with safety in mind and allows them to grow.”
Seth Bose, Jace Shantz, Spencer Dick, Ryan Sherlock, Torrun Maurice, Mason Hill, Ollie Smith, Madisyn Black and Nate Wiedenman, along with Niedziejko and Bynoe, are the Riptech divers who qualified for novice nationals. Black and Smith will not be in action this weekend.
Events will run from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s really exciting for a small city like Kamloops to have 11 kids representing at the Canadian nationals,” said Bulmer Barrett, whose husband, Neil, is the club’s head coach. “It says a lot about the club working together to try to put great coaching in place and build the program.
“I really have to commend all these young athletes because they’ve put in extra practise hours. It all really does culminate at nationals.”