A lot of people have a hand in the
growth and development of gymnastics in Cayman.
One of the most important people in
that regard is Sandra Alberga, owner of Motions Unlimited gym (essentially the
home for the sport in Cayman).
The Jamaican native has been in
Cayman for over 20 years and has been a stalwart in the sport for 12 years
(ever since Motions opened its doors behind World Gym in 1998).
In that time she has been married
(her husband is Michael Alberga) and had a daughter (Bianca, 17) and seen
hundreds of girls come through gymnastics via her gym.
Bianca did follow in mom’s footsteps
for awhile by taking part in the sport. She just quit however to focus on
schoolwork, college applications and another love: equestrianism.
Getting the gym started was not a
quick move for Sandra. Her background was as a fitness instructor in Jamaica for 12
years. In Cayman her first job was as a flight attendant for Cayman Airways for
six years. The gym in fact did not get going until Bianca was three years-old.
What fuelled her on then was a
passion for healthy living that still burns bright now.
“As a young child I watched it on
TV and fell in love with gymnastics, wishing one day to have the opportunity to
partake in the sport. But coming from a small island it was not offered in
those days and not really seen as a Caribbean
“Sports and health has always been
a part of my life. My daughter also had a great love for the sport and showed great
potential. With not a lot of healthy activities to do for kids at the time I
thought it would be an ideal sport to introduce to the island. What has kept me
into the sport is the kids. Being able to have a facility that is not only a
safe environment but one that gives the children a place to learn, play and to
have fun is an amazing achievement.
“Remember gymnastics is a very
dedicated sport which teaches discipline and raises self-esteem, enabling the
child to do well in school but also in other sports as well. I feel it will
show the world that for such a small island we also have great athletes.”
Lately Alberga’s efforts have
resulted in the first-ever boys team to represent Cayman in competition abroad.
The team of Marco Elverdal, Mikha’il
Grant, Jackson Kirkconnell, Robby Rutkowski and Christopher Touhey won first
place for their division at the Gasparilla Classic this year in Tampa.
They would be joined by 15 girls on
the Cayman team which competed at Tropicana Field in seven events: vault, parallel
bars, high bar, floor, pommel horse, rings and all-around.
Naturally Alberga is proud of their
achievement and the chance for a boys team to be formed.
“Overall I think both boys and
girls did an amazing job, especially coming from a small island, the only
foreign country in the competition,” Alberga said.
“Amongst such a large group of
kids, I thought they did fantastic. We have a great staff at Motions and they
too have to be commended.
“Fielding a boys team in Cayman has
taken quite a long time as we did not have a male coach who was able to teach
an all boys team. We finally found a contentious coach from Romania named Sorin Rad, who has competed and
won numerous competitions and medals in Romania, whose hard work and perseverance
enabled us to have a terrific boys team.
“Gymnastics for boys has always
been somewhat of a myth since the sport was mainly for girls but, as you can
see, these boys have shown that with hard work and dedication they can do as
well as the girls and accomplish their dreams. It really does Cayman proud.”
Alberga has a core quartet of
instructors at the gym now (presently located on Sparky Drive). In addition to Rad there
is Heather Waisanen (who coached the girls team in Tampa), Kelley Paz (who was the team manager
at the event) and Sara McTaggart. Almost all of them are in their 20s.
Sara, 21, is the cousin of equestrian
star Jessica McTaggart and is the
lone Caymanian on the staff. Alberga sees that fact as a positive for the
“It feels great being able to employ
a Caymanian. Gymnastics has never been a major sport in Cayman. As a result
there was no-one here who did it or coached it for awhile.
“Someone like Sarah is such a
positive sign for the sport. She used to do cheerleading and gymnastics in college
and is putting those skills to use.
“She teaches kids 15-36 months (in
the “Me and My Shadow” program every day 9:30am-10:15am) and three to four
year-olds (in the “Tumbling Turtles” program 2:45pm-3:30pm on Mondays,
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays).”
The last major local event was the
Holiday Showcase last Christmas and it’s no secret that, for a variety of
reasons, Cayman-based competitions have been hard to set up.
Alberga has tried keeping the sport
alive though through her gym. Among the plethora of programs on offer, one of
the more interesting is the “open gym.” Essentially on any given Friday night at
6-8pm local youth can come and have a go on the equipment.
Once the Easter holiday break
passes more programs are slated to start such as yoga and a boot camp (like
other programs of the same name, with the twist of being indoors).
Additional information on the gym
is online (www.motionsunlimited.com) though Alberga gave some added details on
the “open gym” endeavour.
“It’s CI$25 for two hours with instructors
on-hand,” Alberga said. “It’s a good chance to be introduced to the sport and
for the kids to get a feel of what gymnastics is all about.”