After winning four international gold medals last month, fast-rising Canadian gymnast Ellie Black is blazing toward a spot on her country's team for the Olympic Games in London this summer.
Black won vault and balance beam at the II Artistic Gymnastics Meeting held April 15 in São Bernardo, Brazil. Two weeks later she won vault and floor exercise at the FIG Challenger Cup in Osijek, Croatia. She is now preparing for the Canadian championships that will take place May 22-26 in Regina, and ultimately the London Games.
The 16-year-old Black trains at Halifax Alta Gymnastics Club, where she is coached by Keiji Yamanaka and two-time Olympian David Kikuchi. Kikuchi's wife, 2000 Olympian Crystal Gilmore Kikuchi, choreographed Black's floor exercise routine.
In this IG Online interview, Black reflects on her recent successes and outlines the meticulous steps she is making to earn an Olympic berth.
Ellie Black (Canada)
IG: You have really come on strong this spring, and unlike some of your teammates, you have not had a lot of international experience prior to the Olympic year. What has enabled you to hit the international scene so solidly, and avoid nervousness that affects many newcomers' performances?
EB: I have been looking forward to competing internationally this season, and I am grateful for the opportunities. I try to go into the competition positive, and go out and show what I have been practicing. Focusing on my own performance is very important, as well as supporting my teammates. I have really appreciated the support and welcome I have received from all of Team Canada at recent international meets. This has really helped me make the adjustment and feel confident.
IG: Your floor is unusual in that you have unique tumbling passes, as well as unique choreography. What do you feel is the key to being able to perform such a "complete" floor routine?
EB: This is a new routine for me this year, choreographed by Crystal Kikuchi, so I feel like I am still working on it. The tumbling is also new, so I'm glad that it looks complete!
IG: What is the process of creating the choreography for your floor routine? How do you and Crystal choose the music and the movements?
EB: Crystal's been a great help and inspiration to my gymnastics. It was great choreographing the routine with her because we have very similar styles. A lot of the dance and movements were from previous routines of Crystal's with a little change to make it fit the routine. We tried to choose music that was energetic and powerful but not overdoing it, and that would match my tumbling.
IG: Who coaches you on which events?
EB: My longtime coach is Keiji Yamanaka, who has coached me since I started competitive gymnastics. He coaches me on all four events. David Kikuchi is my other coach, and he started coaching me within the last few years. He helps coach me on all events and often is the coach who travels with me. My coaches, club and province are really behind me, and that helps a lot.
IG: The competition for spots on the Olympic team is going to be tough. Where do you see yourself fitting into the team? In which ways do you think you can help the team the most?
EB: I think I have a lot to offer the Canadian team, especially on vault, which has always been my strongest event. I have also worked to increase my difficulty and execution on beam and floor. In addition to my routines on these three events, I think my strong personality could also support the team. I am determined, hard working, and competitive, but also sociable and a good teammate.
IG: Between now and the Canadian trials, what is your strategy for not only maintaining the high standard you have set internationally, but assuring that the Canadian team knows you can deliver what they need in London?
EB: My plan is to continue all the aspects of my training that have brought me success this far. The positive results from recent competitions are a strong motivator to keep working hard and improve further. I also intend to use what I have learned at the international meets that I've attended to help me. Hopefully this will prepare me to have a strong performance at Nationals, which is an important competition for the team selection.