For years the sport of gymnastics featured very few boys in Cayman. Though the numbers remain small, the group has excelled beyond its size in the last 17 months.
The latest proof of their talent came this month at the Amateur Athletics Union Nationals taking place at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. Kiefer Ebanks, Mikhail Grant, Igor Maghalhaes and Christopher Touhey all grabbed a slew of medals in the Under-15 age group under the direction of Sorin Rad. They competed in events such as the vault, floor, pommel horse, rings and parallel bars and posted 15 top three finishes.
Rad, who hails from Romania, states he was pleased with the boys’ success.
“I was very happy because I had set expectations in my mind for their performance and they exceeded beyond that,” Rad said. “I was very proud that in the end of the day, all our hard work paid off, as they came home with many medals. I think their strongest event was floor.
“They all did well in this division and maybe it was where I was the strongest in coaching them as it was one of my favorite events when I was a young gymnast.”
Rad has produced results in a short time at the Motions Unlimited gym in George Town. He coached Cayman’s first male gymnastics team at the annual Gasparilla Classic in Tampa last year. That squad, which featured Grant and Touhey along with Marco Elverdal, Jackson Kirkconnell and Robert Rutkowski, earned several first place spots.
For Motions gym owner Sandra Alberga, Rad has helped demystify the notion of boys taking part in gymnastics.
“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,” Alberga said. “We finally found a coach in Sorin, who has competed and won numerous competitions and medals in Romania. His 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.”
Rad’s fellow coaches have been equally pleased. Kelley Paz, who has headed a number of girls team in overseas competitions, states Rad has established a program for Cayman boys to not only excel now but well into the future. “Sorin has been putting a great deal of time and effort into preparing these boys for competition,” Paz said. “He has been working very hard to bring attention to boys’ gymnastics on the island.
“He recently started a boys’ hotshot program with the intention of building a larger boys team to compete in the future. It is a very exciting time for Motions gym.”
From all accounts the long-term goal is to have a boys team big enough to mimic those on the girls side. For instance at the AAU Nationals this month, Cayman was represented by 13 young ladies: Leah Alberga, Destiny Campbell, Giselle Ebanks, Isabella Grieff, Jade Hernandez, Abigail Lindsay, Jessica Lloyd, Morgan Lloyd, Kaylee Melleneo, Chanel Parchment, Kylie Porter, Raegan Rutty, Haley Willkom. All were coached by Heather Waisanen.
From there the push will be to have young men replicate the example of Lauren Hill and Katie Scott, both 14 years-old. The duo made history as Cayman’s first representatives at the Gymnastics Inter Island Games in Jersey this month.
Until then the short-term focus is on the next meet abroad, which Rad points out is some four months away.
“The boys just finished the last level four competition and over the summer we will be working hard to finish our level five routines. We are preparing ourselves for a competition in South Carolina in November. I hope they do just as well in the upcoming competition.”