Pan Am newsmaker of the day: Ellie Black

Ellie Black did not suddenly “arrive on the scene” this week in the gymnastics competition at the Pan Am Games, where she won five medals. She was already there.

Canadian gymnast raises personal medal haul to 5

Ellie Black's golden performance on the balance beam helped bring her Pan Am medal total up to five. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Ellie Black did not suddenly "arrive on the scene" this week in the gymnastics competition at the Pan Am Games.

She was already there. 

The Halifax native didn't really surprise a lot of people in the know with her five medals, because there had been solid outings at the 2012 Olympics (where Canada made the team final and she the last eight for vault), and the 2013 and 2014 world artistic meet. 

It was the way some of those medals were won that should catch the attention of the gymnastics world. 

Take Wednesday's balance beam, and seriously.

Already with three medals in the bag, the 19-year-old mounted the 124-cm (just over four-foot) apparatus, and turned in one of the best performances of her career, right down to sticking the dismount with thunderous home cheers providing a human surround sound.

"Landing the dismount was amazing … it's always amazing when I make [good] beam routines," said Black, who exudes confidence when speaking with the media. "[I'm] going into it with the mindset of, not so much staying on the beam, [but] doing the routine the way I know how to."

Oh, it was way better than that.

A little context is called for here:

  • Black's 15.050 mark in the Pan Am beam would have been good enough for second behind American star Simone Biles at the 2014 world artistic gymnastics championships. This was simply a world-class performance.
  • The all-around competition gold-medal mark of 58.150 for Black this week would have been fourth in China. And that floor exercise 14.400 would have grabbed sixth.
  • This is a performer who finished ninth in the all-around at worlds last year — the best ever global or Olympic mark by a Canadian woman (Victoria Moors, now retired, had been 10th the year before). Black scored 56.132 then and has made major improvements.

Time tells, and the 2015 worlds at Glasgow in October will show. The Canadian leader, who always mentions team first before chatting about herself, was right on topic in the mixed zone Wednesday.

"I came in here with the team, focusing on team and to come out with the silver [in team] was amazing," Black said. "Individually, I just came out looking towards the world championships, getting the experience, getting back into international competition.

"I think it's definitely a good stepping stone for worlds."

There's something else to notice as the artistic gymnastics program comes to a close, and that's how much the rest of the team now looks up to her. Victoria Woo, who is 17, won a surprise bronze medal and credited Black for keeping her calm.

The same thing had been said by swimmers at the pool the night before about Canada's Audrey Lacroix — teams need this kind of internal strength. 

"I think, for me, that's one of the most important things that I want to be able to give back to the team," Black said, when told of Woo's comments. "Some of the experiences I've had [will] hopefully [help] for their future in gymnastics and their confidence."

Floor routine done, Pan Ams in the books, Ellie Black turned to the crowd and waved her arms, blowing kisses in gratitude. She hadn't been able to hear her music it was so loud, and wondered if she was actually in time with the beat.

You bet she is. Right on time.


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