The family of Canadian artistic gymnast Ellie Black sat in a coffee shop outside the North Greenwich Arena, painting each other’s faces with Maple Leafs, sipping coffee and chatting, trying to stay calm and kill time until their teenaged daughter was to compete on the Olympic stage.
Black is a 16-year-old member of the Canadian team that beat the odds by making it into the women’s team final at the London Olympics. It’s something Canada has never done at a non-boycotted Games.
Black’s mother Kathy says after having watched the qualification competition on Sunday, the girls still didn’t know for sure if they would be in the team final until the rest of the teams concluded. Suddenly, all the parents got a call to meet their daughters inside the venue right away.
They arrived in time for the girls to be delivered the news. They had indeed qualified for the team final.
“It was an incredibly special moment for all of us,” Mrs. Black said. “We were all hugging and enjoying the moment with our daughters. Someone spontaneously broke out into O Canada. It’s a memory I will file away forever.”
Black, who will also compete in the vault final later this week has had injuries in the past, but her mother says she can’t let that enter her mind as she watches her daughter compete.
“The mother of a gymnast can’t even let that thought enter her mind when her daughter is competing. It would just consume me,” Black said. “We’re so proud and overjoyed by what these girls have done, against the odds.”
Canada’s team finished eighth among the 12 teams in the qualification to advance to the team final. It will now square off with the world’s powers in the sport.
Team USA is the heavy favourite, hungering for its first gold medal in the team final since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when the Magnificent Seven did it with starlets like Kerri Strug, Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes. The 2012 U.S. team may prove to be one of America’s strongest yet in the sport, with all-around world champion Jordyn Wieber and vault world champion McKayla Maroney.
Russia and Romania are also strong contenders for the podium.