Meet New West-born gymnast champion Sydney Turner

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For Sydney Turner, who was part of the Canadian team that made history at the World Gymnastics Championships 2022, it all started in a parent-and-tot gym class in New West.

November started on a high note for New West-born gymnast Sydney Turner – who was part of a team that brought home Canada’s first-ever medal of gymnastics in the world championship.

Turner and her teammates — Ellie Black, Laurie Denommee, Denelle Pedrick and Emma Spence — grabbed a bronze medal at the finals of the 2022 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool, England. USA got the gold, and Great Britain, silver. 

“I feel so amazing. It’s still not totally sunk in yet. I’m just super proud and happy,” said Turner over a call.

The win makes the team eligible to participate at the Paris Olympics 2024. So, even as the 17-year-old says oui to her bright future, in an interview with The Record, she looks back to where her journey began — right here in the city of New Westminster. Here are excerpts from the chat:

What do you remember about your time in New West?

I was born in New West, but my residence is in Port Coquitlam. I did spend a lot of time in New West when I was younger.

I actually took my first gymnastics class there, at the Arenex (it was a parent-and-tot class organized by the New West Parks and Recreation — one of the only programs available for kids under three and on a drop-in basis, as per Turner’s mother Kerrie Turner. Sydney was about 14-22 months old then and “she enjoyed playing the games, walking on the beam and swinging on the bars.”). When I started my competitive career at the age of five, I went to Tag Sports Centre in Port Coquitlam. 

I have a lot of family in New West; I have spent quite some time there. I have gone back pretty often — there’s lots of stuff to do there. There’s one bridge (referring to Pattullo Bridge) when we drive there from PoCo… that’s really beautiful. And every time we go past it, I always love looking out the window.

Did you like your gymnastics classes even as a kid?

Gymnastics was just something that I looked forward to every morning when I woke up when I was younger, and still do when I’m older.

I loved the atmosphere and all the older athletes that I could look up to (like Taylor Chan, Nicole Chow, Ana Padurariu, Brooklyn Moors, and Ellie Black — who was part of Turner’s winning team). I loved all my coaches and my teammates.

And it was so fun having goals and new skills to learn and acquire. 

You have previously been part of international competitions like the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, in Hungary, and 2022 DTB Pokal Mixed Cup in Germany, but what was it like performing at the World Gymnastics Championship in Liverpool?

Going into it (the finals, to which only eight teams make it), we really had to fight hard for eighth place. We were pretty close with the Netherlands who ended up coming in ninth. So we really had that mentality of just trying to show the best performances that we could.

And just really giving it our all and seeing if we could climb up any higher. So we were really just excited to show what we could do and have a good time performing.

Our goal for the final day was really to try and do our best and see how the results turn out. It was definitely a big surprise and a very happy result to come in third.

What was your reaction when you heard the results announced?

It was definitely emotional… I definitely was crying and screaming and jumping around with my teammates. Lots of hugs and tears. And it was a big moment for all of us… for coaches, athletes, everyone.

What was your training like leading up to the event?

I did my training back in my home gym in BC. And then we went to the National Training Centre in Montreal, Quebec, for about a four-day training camp, where we practised performing our routines.

And then we came to Liverpool, and we had a few days of training. We had our podium training, which is a rehearsal where we practised showing our routines and working as a team together, and then we had our comp [competition] days.

Besides the training for this specific event, what’s your daily routine like? 

I go to school in the morning, and then usually around noon, I’ll go to the gym, and we train for about five hours. 

Favourite gym apparatus?

I can’t pick one but I love bars and beam.

How do you clear your head before a routine?

I do that by focusing on the present moment, and thinking about one skill and one movement at a time during my routines; even talking to my teammates and the coaches and distracting myself a little bit before I get on the event is helpful too. It’s fun to joke and play around and dance to the music that’s playing. 

I think it’s easy to get frustrated sometimes. We spend a lot of time in the gym and we care so much about what we’re doing. So when it doesn’t work out exactly how we want to, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed by frustration.

But you just have to remind yourself that not everything is going to work out every day. But what you can make happen is a good attitude, and a good outlook on yourself. And you just have to remind yourself that as long as you keep a good attitude, you’re gonna accomplish what you want to.

How do you plan to get ready for the 2024 Paris Olympics?

I am really hoping to upgrade some of my difficulty and all my routines. I’m really excited to get back to the gym at home and keep working on some new skills. 

Meanwhile, you are set to join the University of Iowa?

I’m going to be attending there sometime soon; I’m hoping to go into Civil Engineering.

I have gotten really passionate about urban planning and the transit system (her previous dream job was to go to Europe and teach English), which partially came from how much travel I’ve gotten to do with gymnastics and seeing how different cities work. So I’ve wanted to maybe bring some of that back to BC.

Do you take time off from gymnastics at all?

I take Wednesdays and Saturdays off from the gym. I like to just take that time to enjoy life outside of gymnastics. That’s usually when I’ll spend time with friends or do hobbies (like reading, and playing the piano). 

While gymnastics is a huge part of my life, I also think it’s really important to have other things to fall back on.