REGINA -- Calgary’s Nathan Gafuik inched closer to claiming Canada’s only Olympic berth in men’s gymnastics en route to winning the men’s all around title on Thursday at the Canadian championships.
Gafuik placed first in three of six events for a total score of 85.300 points to claim his second Canadian all around title in the last three years.
Jayd Lukenchuk of Saskatoon placed second with 83.850 points and Robert Watson of Coquitlam, B.C., was third at 81.950.
This year’s championship has a lot more at stake than normal for Canada’s top seniors with Olympic berths up for grabs in both the men’s and women’s events.
Gafuik took a huge step towards clinching the highly-coveted Olympic men’s berth with one of the most difficult high bar routines in the world.
Gafuik’s high flying routine was awarded 15.300 points, a score that would have placed him fourth in the event at the 2011 world championships.
“When I saw the score it there was a huge sigh of relief,” said Gafuik, a 10-year national team veteran and two-time Olympian.
“It’s tough to compete against your teammates. We’re all great friends but gymnastics is an individual sport and you always have that competitive edge. Everyone wants to see the best person go and I think everyone is going to support the person that does go.”
At the last Olympics four years ago in Beijing Canada qualified a full men’s team but just two women. This time around the situation is reversed with the women qualifying a full team while the men came up short and were granted just one spot in London.
Gafuik and others in the running for the men's spot have four meets, including the Canadian championships, to earn a score in an individual event that would have put them in a final at the most recent world championships last October in Tokyo. The gymnast with the highest ranking among those that meet the standard wins the Olympic berth. So far only Gafuik has met the standard with the two final selection meets coming up next month in Europe.
In the women’s all around competition, Kristina Vaculik of Whitby, Ont., won her third Canadian title with a score of 56.700 points.
Victoria Moors of Cambridge, Ont., and Dominique Pegg of Sarnia, Ont., tied for second with identical scores of 56.300 points.
Vaculik, Moors and Pegg and others are all battling for a spot on the Canadian women’s Olympic team to be selected at the end of June.
Following the Canadian championships up to 12 gymnasts will be invited to a final selection camp in Gatineau, Que., to whittle down the contenders to the five-woman Olympic team plus one alternate athlete.
In other events on Thursday Torontonians Karen Cockburn and Jason Burnett qualified first in the men’s and women’ trampoline event respectively with finals set for Saturday.
Denis Vachon of Burlington, Ont, and Mariah Madigan of Toronto were first in the preliminaries for men’s and women’s double mini trampoline and Junior Charpentier-Leclerc of Quebec City topped the field in the men’s tumbling prelims.
In rhythmic gymnastics Ekaterina Shtrevensky and Maria Kitkarska, both of Montreal, are ranked 1-2 in the individual senior qualification after the first two of four apparatus.