Edmonton

Chinese national gymnastics team to train in Alberta hamlet

A gymnastics centre in the tiny hamlet of Tawatinaw which opened two years ago as a place for rural children to learn gymnastics is about to serve as the training facility for the Chinese national team.

Tawatinaw, a hamlet of 10 people, will host the team at the Pine Valley Gym Centre in September

Rural gymnastics club set to welcome Chinese national team

Edmonton

4 years ago
1:20
The CBC's Travis McEwan explains why China's national gymnastics team will train at a rural Alberta club. 1:20

A gymnastics centre in the tiny hamlet of Tawatinaw, which opened two years ago as a place for rural children to learn gymnastics, is about to serve as the training facility for the Chinese national team.

"This is surreal. I have a hard time bringing people out from Edmonton," said Bobby Kriangkum, program coordinator at the Pine Valley Gym Centre.

"We're having people come all the way out from Beijing at the national training centre. This is crazy for us."

According to Statistics Canada, Tawatinaw, a hamlet 70 kilometres north of Edmonton, is known chiefly for the Pine Valley Snow Resort, a ski hill on the edge of the Tawatinaw Valley. 

The hamlet itself is estimated to have a population of 10 people. Kriangkum thinks that might be generous.

Bobby, Dom, and Pam Kriangkum opened the Pine Valley Gym Centre in Tawatinaw two years ago for rural children to learn gymnastics. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Two years ago the Kriangkum family, which runs the ski hill, opened the centre to give kids who live north of Edmonton a chance to learn gymnastics.

Dom Kriangkum was a member of the University of Alberta Golden Bears gymnastics club, and his son Bobby and daughter Pam competed for Thailand and Canada. 

The dream was for his son and daughter to continue with gymnastics after they finish school, while teaching area children, Dom Kriangkum said.

From the outside, the gym looks like a modern farming facility, but it's a world class gymnastics club with in-floor trampolines, rings, high bars, uneven bars and a spring floor.

It would be great for our local kids to go and rub shoulders with the athletes.- Dom Kriangkum

Children come from the nearby towns of Westlock, Clyde and Athabasca.

Cindy Scott brings daughters Mara, 9, and Lyla, 5, from their home — a 10-minute drive away, where they moved after living in Fort McMurray and Edmonton.

Bobby Kriangkum passes on his experience of competing with Thailand's national gymnastic team to a young student. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"We kind of had the perception that there was not going to be as many opportunities," Scott said. "We're finding out more and more that there's so much they can do here with skiing or with gymnastics.

"It's great to be able to offer them this and still live in a country environment."

The Chinese national gymnastics team is expected to use the Pine Valley Gym Centre for training from Sept. 21-27 before competing in Montreal at the world championships in early October.

Dom Kriangkum is the general manger of the Pine Valley Gym Centre, along with managing the Pine Valley Snow Resort. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"With our facility, we are not in an urban centre," said Bobby Kriangkum, explaining the Pine Valley gym's appeal to the Chinese team. "We also have the type of seclusion where they can have focused training to make sure that they can be as prepared mentally and physically as they can, so that when they go to Montreal they perform the best that they can

"The athletes who are going to be here are former Olympic and world champions," Dom Kriangkum said. "It would be great for our local kids to go and rub shoulders with the athletes."

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