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T. Michael Hennessy, Law Office
Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Thursday, Sep. 21, 2017
Folz fulfilling full gymnastic potential
2016-11-29
by Randy Pascal

A grade seven student at St Raphael in the spring of 2012, gymnast Kayla Folz was contemplating her relatively rapid ascension through the ranks, competing at Level 8 for the first time and eyeing the chance of moving to the next rung of the ladder.

“It might take me a little longer to get to the next skills,” she said at that time, when asked about a jump to Level 9. Turns out she may have underestimated, just a smidgen, the value of hard work and determination, when combined with a bucketful of natural ability.

Competing at her first “senior level” qualifier earlier this month, the now 17 year-old grade 12 student at St Charles College attained her standard scores, advancing Folz to the field that will compete in the “2017 Elite Canada in Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics” meet at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax come early February.

“It’s incredible to think just how far I have come,” acknowledged Folz, attending one of her near-daily practice sessions at the GymZone facility in New Sudbury. “I knew that with hard work, there was a possibility of getting better and moving up in the levels, but I never could have imagined becoming a senior athlete.”

“I had always set Level 10 as my goal, going to nationals. I’ve progressed further than I could have ever imagined.” Just to be clear, the stage upon which Folz now performs is one she is sharing with the absolute best female gymnasts that Canada has produced, the grouping from which Olympic teams are created.

Scaling those kinds of mountains is a bi-product of ever increasing demands in terms of the hours of weekly training workouts, an environment, thankfully, that Folz has embraced over the years. “From my coaches telling me, my parents telling me, I knew that I was a talented athlete as a kid,” she stated.

“I believe in myself – but nothing can substitute for hard work. Doing extra turns, going on when no one else is going, and coming in to train when no one else is here, that’s what has really helped - working hard every day, even when I’m tired, even when it’s a rough day.”

It’s a trademark of her character that is not lost, in the least, on Terra Davidson, the coach who has worked with her through the bulk of her most recent rise in gymnastics. “She loves coming to the gym every day,” said Davidson. “Really, for the number of hours that she puts in, you have to love being here.”

“She’s not just a good athlete, but she’s such a good role model, a mentor. I think that kind of stuff drives her too – it’s also the environment that she produces with those around her.”

While it goes without saying that elite level training, within any sport, will take its toll on the human body, it is also clear gymnastics can go toe to toe with the best of them in terms of the physical demands it places on young athletes.

“Every single day I wake up in pain, with all of the pounding on the joints,” acknowledged Folz. “But it’s a good pain. It’s that pain that comes from knowing you worked hard, that you trained hard the day before. It’s a hard sport, but it’s worth it in the end.”

It is, in part, that kind of mindset that has allowed Kayla Folz to achieve ground-breaking results, on a local level, unlike those achieved by hundreds of Sudbury and area gymnasts that came before. Suffice to say that the past couple of years have produced those “breaking into new and uncharted territory” moments that all competitive athletes live for.

“In my first year at Level 10, my first meet was Tour Selection,” she recalled. “We went in with the mindset that it was a trial year, just to test out how I could do. I ended up placing fourth all-around at that competition and qualifying for Vegas. That was a huge breakthrough for me.”

And then there is the 2016-2017 season to be. “This is a really exciting year for me, because I never actually thought I would make it to the senior level.” As much as her own personal self-motivation has been key to the progress, so too has been the support that is critical around her.

“All of these drills, all of the training just progressed, allowing me to work in these new skills and be ready for these levels,” she said. “But my biggest “thank you’s” have to go to my coach and my parents. Terra always encourages me on my rough days, being there to plan for me over the years, getting research done, finding ways to coach skills that she’s never coached before.”

“And the time that my parents have put in, driving me to practices and competitions, is unbelievable.” Thankfully, the fruits of their labour is evident to all of those involved in “Team Folz”. The well-spoken young woman, who is now talking actively with NCAA programs, looking towards pursuing a post-secondary career in a year or two, is more determined than ever to travel the road that lies ahead.

“As a senior athlete, this year is more of a building year, whereas next year would be about trying to score better, to do better overall. I have a distance to go, but I know that I’m getting there. For instance, I’m now twisting on my vaults. I’m adding a second vault now, which allows me to make it to event finals. Then I would be competing a lot closer to these girls who have twisting vaults.”

“These girls”, who are among the elite female vaulters in Canada. The type of athletes that Folz only dreamed of competing against one day. Athletes with whom she now shares the vault runway.

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