The five Canadian teens were still shaking with excitement when they came out of the Olympic gymnastics arena to meet the press.
While crowds of reporters were huddling around American gymnasts who had just blown away the competition in qualifying, the Canadian women took a deep breath and absorbed a significant moment for their own team.
Thanks to strong performances on Sunday, those five Canadian women will compete in one of the more popular medal events at the London Games – the women’s artistic gymnastics team final. It’s the first time a Canadian team has ever reached the Olympic team final at a non-boycotted Games. Canada hadn’t even had a team at the Games since 2004.
“I’m at a loss for words. I am so proud of these girls,” said 19-year-old Kristina Vaculik, of Whitby, Ont.. “We had incredible performances, and it’s so amazing to be here right now.”
The Canadians, all first-time Olympians, said they benefited from the energy of an electric day in the bright-pink confines of the gymnastics venue at North Greenwich Arena in London. They were competing in a subdivision with the gold-medal favourites from the U.S. and the home team, Britain. The top eight teams from qualifying make the team final, and Canada finished eighth. The United States was first, followed by Russia, China, Romania, Britain, Japan, and Italy.
“I feel so blessed to be here, I still just can’t believe it. Just to have our names announced out there, it kind of left me breathless,” said 18-year-old Dominique Pegg. “Team all-around was our biggest goal, we were really focusing on the team.”
Canada’s team is also made up of Brittany Rogers (19), Ellie Black (16) and Canada’s youngest Olympian of these Games, 15-year-old Victoria Moors. Pegg also made the all-around individual final, which goes Thursday, while Brittany Rogers and Ellie Black made the vault final scheduled for Sunday.
The women felt encouraged by how good their numbers could be in the Tuesday’s team final, considering their performance on beam Sunday wasn’t stellar. As it was their second event, they had to bounce back strong on vault and floor“After the beam, we just thought ‘OK, we have to leave it. Let’s move on to the next round’,” said Black, of Halifax. “We had a good performance on the floor routine, and it helped to feed off the energy of the crowd.”
The young women immediately took to Twitter Sunday night and received new fans and notes of congratulations. Moors’ Twitter page filled up with guys asking her out. Pegg got a shout out of congrats from Justin Bieber.
“Our moment in time has finally arrived!” Moors tweeted.
The American women breezed through qualifying as expected, but one result sparked some debate about the rule that only two gymnasts from each nation can compete in the individual all-around final.
Jordyn Wieber, 2011 world individual all-around champion and the favourite for all-around gold coming into London, did not make it into the all-around final. The 24 gymnasts with the best all-around scores in qualifying make it into that competition, yet only two gymnasts per country are allowed. She finished behind American teammates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, so she they will go instead of her, despite the fact that she was fourth-best out of all gymnasts.
“It has always been a dream of mine to compete in the all-around final of the Olympics, but I’m proud of Ally and Gabby,” Wieber said . “It was always going to be close between the three of us doing all-around and in the end it is what it is.”