Special Olympics Team Canada rhythmic gymnasts prepared for empowering World Games experience

Special Olympics Team Canada rhythmic gymnasts are ready to shine at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, happening June 17 to 25.

When the team came together in April for their Training Camp in Richmond, B.C., Head Coach Jennifer Fyfe was impressed by the athletes’ progress. She says all four gymnasts have come a long way since their first camp in November. 

“The Special Olympics Team Canada experience has been incredibly positive for the athletes. It is a unique opportunity for growth in so many ways. At Training Camp, each athlete was more confident, adaptable, fit and excited. They are really looking forward to the overall experience,” says Fyfe.

Fyfe says Manitoba athlete Rebecca Birss has mastered her choreography and has done a great job of developing her skills with ribbons. 

“She now has lovely spirals and stronger wrists. Her balance has also improved from all of her practice. Rebecca has benefitted from some ballet classes that have helped smooth out her routines. She is a lot of fun to watch,” Fyfe says.

Rebecca Birrs
Rebecca Birss of Special Olympics Team Canada 2023 rhythmic gymnastics team.

Patricia Colgan has put a lot of effort into improving her balance, fitness, dance quality and apparatus handling. Fyfe says the athlete from Quebec has made remarkable progress since November. 

“I cannot say enough positive things about how much she has improved. The absolute best part is that she smiles throughout her whole routines – and it is clear she is enjoying herself,” Fyfe says.

Patrcia Colgan and team mates of Special Olympics Team Canada 2023 rhythmic gymnastics team.

British Columbia’s Jodi Klukas has been working hard on her flexibility and balance, and as a result, her routines are more grounded and fluid.

“Jodi loves to perform for an audience and puts a lot of effort into walking on and off the floor with confidence. With her increased fitness since November, her jumps and leaps are stronger and more stable,” Fyfe says.

Jodi Klukas
Jodi Klukas of Special Olympics Team Canada 2023 rhythmic gymnastics team.

Despite having a high degree of difficulty, Ontario athlete Kimana Mar’s routines have become much more polished since November.

“As this is Kimana's third World Games, she has stepped into a leadership role in the team,” Fyfe says. “She has been sharing lots of information with the other athletes on what to expect at Games. She has also been incredibly helpful with the other athletes by sharing with them some of her tips and tricks.” 

Kimana Mars
Kimana Mar of Special Olympics Team Canada 2023 rhythmic gymnastics team.

Fyfe says rhythmic gymnastics is great for improving an athlete’s confidence and self-esteem, so it’s incredibly rewarding to coach the sport with Special Olympics. 

“When they are out there, the audience and the judges make sure the athletes feel appreciated and welcomed with cheers and smiles. It is their moment to feel appreciated for all their hard work. These moments boost confidence so much, because if an athlete can perform under that pressure, other life situations become less intimidating. Every time an athlete walks onto the carpet, they get to have a moment that is all about them – which is truly empowering.”

Mar knows how rhythmic gymnastics and Special Olympics can change lives. She says competing in the sport helped give her the confidence to go to college. In the past, she wasn’t always sure this was a dream she could achieve. 

“It made me reach goals in school. I was able to make it through high school – and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but – it has also helped me through college as well. I’ve seen my confidence soar. And my academics has really been helped with Special Olympics, and I really don’t know where I would be without it.”

Fyfe says she is excited to see the four athletes have an empowering experience in Berlin, and hopes they return with lifelong memories. 

“The main goal for World Games is for each athlete to come home feeling proud of themselves and to have had a wonderful time. I truly want them to look back and remember it for being a positive and uplifting experience.”