There are some exceptional gymnasts emerging from the celebrated Motions Unlimited gym, and Sami Peene shines as brightly as her teammates.
The 14-year-old Caymanian has been competing since age 8, and in that time her progress has literally come in leaps and bounds.
Peene is training for the Caribbean Commonwealth Gymnastics Cup in November in Jamaica, where Cayman will send a full team to compete against Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
She is also hoping to qualify for the Youth Commonwealth Gymnastics Championships and the Junior Pan Am Championships. Also on her itinerary with Motions Unlimited are meets in Canada and the United States.
She has always loved sports and has played roller hockey, rugby, soccer and swimming.
“I still participate in some of the sea swims and kid triathlons, but gymnastics training is about 20 hours a week, so since I was 12, I have mainly been focused on gymnastics,” Peene said.
Her family is a sporty one. Her grandfather swam for Scotland and her mom and dad rowed and coached rowing for Canada. Her brothers, Derek and Andrew, play hockey, golf, rugby and soccer.
As for Peene’s brilliant gymnastics development at Motions, she puts it down to a state-of-the-art facility and a coaching staff who arrived here with plenty of high-level experience in the U.S. and Canada.
The Cayman Islands Gymnastics Association also works with international judges who regularly visit and provide valuable feedback against international standards through video analysis.
The Pan American Gymnastics Union also runs development camps at the U.S. National Training Center in Texas, where Cayman gymnasts and coaches can train with the best from the Americas and the Caribbean and get feedback from Olympic coaches and trainers.
Cayman was recognized by the International Gymnastics Federation in 2013, giving these athletes the opportunity to compete on an international scale. They have seized that opportunity impressively.
Cayman’s gymnasts have really risen to the challenge and surpassed all expectations. They are highly motivated to achieve the standards that they need to compete at higher levels.
Peene has learned well since her first international meet in July, the Inter-Island Games in Ynys Mon, Wales.
“Just getting to go and compete with my teammates was amazing,” she said. “Earning a silver medal on bars in the International Federation of Gymnastics competition at the Games was my highest achievement.”
Peene also won gold on beam at the 2015 Florida State Championships and was regional beam champion in 2014.
Brimming with ambition, Peene is really focused on what she wants to achieve in the sport.
“I would like to focus on international junior events over the next couple of years, like the Youth Commonwealth and Junior Pan Ams next year and the 2017 Island Games in Gotland. Other countries she has competed in are the Bahamas and Ireland.
“When I turn 16, I can try to qualify for bigger events like the Commonwealth Games in Australia, the Central American and Caribbean Games and the Pan Am Games.”
A pupil at the Cayman International School, Peene “loves meeting other gymnasts and being an ambassador for Cayman when I travel to international meets.”
Peene has a passion for the sea, and when she retires from gymnastics she plans to travel abroad to study marine biology “to help protect Cayman’s reefs and marine life while also supporting its tourism industry.”