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Monday 21 October 2019
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Gymnasts shine at House for Gymnastics

Coach Afeisha Burke assists Jodie Sifontes with her handstand at the House of Gymnastics, Mt Lamber.

Photo: Ayanna Kinsale
Coach Afeisha Burke assists Jodie Sifontes with her handstand at the House of Gymnastics, Mt Lamber. Photo: Ayanna Kinsale

ALYSSA Chang and Sierra Peters-Charles shared the typical teenage giggles, as they looked on as their fellow gymnasts shyly received their much deserved awards during the House for Gymnastics awards ceremony, on June 8.

The awards ceremony was held at the House for Gymnastics’ headquarters, at 6th Street, Mt Lambert and marked their first competitive season.

Chang, an international gymnast, who lives in Atlanta, USA, had only been enrolled one week at HFG, but said she considered the gym, “ a home away from home”.

Peters-Charles on the other hand, is part and parcel of what can only be described as the most state of the art and fully equipped gymnasiums in TT and by extension the Caribbean.

Aidan Garraway does a handstand on rings, during practise, on Saturday, at the House for Gymnastics, Mt, Lambert.
Photo by Ayanna Kinsale.

The facility, which officially opened on September 8, 2018 boasts the tag line –The home of champions – and this was certainly so for eight-year-old gymnast Vania Torres.

Torres, who is a Level 1 gymnast, was adjudicated a perfect ten on the balance beam at a Tots and Tumblers meet in March.

That meet was HFG’s debut at local competitions although most of its 20-plus gymnasts trained for less than six months.

Co-founder of HFG Elicia Peters-Charles said she felt proud of her team for putting their all into meets while competing with seasoned gymnasts.

After seeing the dedication, spirit and enthusiasm which members displayed in their first season, Peter-Charles said, the HFG felt compelled to recognise those efforts.

Her daughter Sierra, who had placed third at the Jamaica National Gymnastics tournament, in November 2018, unfortunately, had to sit out the season due to a knee injury, which required surgery.

Sierra had been training for a couple years with another gym, but Peters-Charles said it had been their dream to have her do so in a facility much like what she had seen abroad.

This desire birthed HFG, said an outspoken Peters-Charles.

When she and husband, Michael, purchased the land in 2017, she said, they had no doubts that they were going to make a difference in a sport that is not yet fully recognised in TT.

Raphael Cooper demonstrates his skills on the parallel bars, at the House for Gymnastics, Mt. Lambert, on Saturday.
Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

With that sense of determination, coupled with her husband’s vision and research, they were able to create an environment that will help fulfil the dreams of potential Olympiads.

Inside HFG

At the HFG facility, one immediately gets a sense of owners who are meticulous about personal safety and positive regulations.

A well-written and lengthy long board, stands front and centre on a wall, itemising HFG’s standing rules, for both members and parents or guardians.

Peters-Charles said discipline has to be developed and nurtured not only in her young charges, but within the parent body as well.

“We are very mindful that this is about having the gymnasts learn and thrive in an environment which not only offers the best possible equipment we can offer, but to do so where they feel safe, comfortable, have fun while learning, and is fully conducive to them being at their best and maintaining those positions.”

Peter-Charles is assisted by her daughters : Dr Shanice Peters, Sydney Peters, a second-year law student, national volley-baller Samara Peters-Charles and adopted daughter, Tinille Harewood.

Harewood spoke of her family’s long and tireless journey in getting the facility built and up and running.

At the awards ceremony, longtime friend and mentor, Gillian Caesar, confirmed this when she commended Peters-Charles for “so wanting the best for her own daughter that she decided to also offer the best to the nation’s children”.

Caesar said the HFG “ought to enhance the sport and potentially open a pathway for sport tourism.”

Jodi Sifontes, from left, Nadeen Mohammed, Aanyah Clarke, Sadie Seaton and Saoirse Young in a bridge at the House of Gymnastics, Mt Lambert.
Photo: Ayanna Kinsale

Head coach Tayo Fakiyesi assists Sierra Peters-Charles with a cast to handstand on the uneven bars.
Photo: Ayanna Kinsale

President of the TT Gymnastics Federation, Sacha Darbreau,who attended the awards ceremony, noted the nation’s gymnasts would certainly benefit from training in facilities that offered an environment and equipment much like foreign competitors.

Caesar, who later accompanied Newsday on a tour of the facility, urged Peters-Charles to extend invitations to regional clubs, to “at least see the quality and standard of HFG”. She reiterated the possibility of establishing HFG as one of the premier gyms in the Caribbean.

Alyssa Chang does an elbow stand.

The gymnasium holds a huge specialized 40ft x 40ft birch spring floor, a seven foot-deep carpet bonded foam pit, into which gymnasts can safely land while practising, additional specialised pits customised for the type of gymnastics being practised and an industrial trampoline.

In thanking those instrumental in HFG’s establishment, Peters-Charles said she had to acknowledge builder, Kevin Gayadeen and top Nigerian coach Fakiyesi Tayo, fondly called “Tayo”.

The event was chaired by radio personality, Natalee Legore, from i95.5 FM.

Counsellor for the area, Darren Winchester brought greetings from the burgess and said he looked forward to supporting the “budding Olympiads” emerging from HFG.

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