Cracking the vault
Kayla Folz has a bit of a spring in her step these days.
The 13-year-old Sudbury Laurels gymnast has been racking up the accolades this season, recently capping it off with a double medal at the provincial championships.
Folz was first introduced to gymnastics at the age of five. Two years later, she was already competing. Now, eight years into it, the Grade 8 student at St. Raphael Catholic Elementary School has dedicated all her energies to pursuing gymnastic excellence.
“I used to play other sports, but not any more,” she said. “Gymnastics is my main focus. I practice 17.5 hours a week.”
And all that practice has been paying off.
Earlier this year, Folz made the cut for Team Ontario, which competed at the 2013 Presidential Classic Tour in Florida.
In other words, Folz was among the top eight gymnasts in the province.
“This is my first year being able to qualify and even try out for tour because I just turned 13 and you have to be 13 to compete,” she said.
There is no maximum age to compete, but despite being among the youngest competitors, Folz proved she deserved to be there.
“I did pretty good,” she said, modestly. “I came first in vault, and I placed fifth on beam and fifth overall.”
Overall, Team Ontario placed fourth out of the seven teams competing.
Of the four events in which Folz competes (vault, beam, floor and bars), she pegged vault as her favourite. “I’m more of a powerful gymnast and I find it’s a quick and short event and makes you less nervous,” she said.
I know right now in her division, and in a lot of the higher divisions, she has one of the best vaults in Ontario.
Lisa Kivinen, Folz’s coach of the past three years, said the young athlete has set quite the bar in terms of the vault.
“I know right now in her division, and in a lot of the higher divisions, she has one of the best vaults in Ontario,” Kivinen said. “She’s a great athlete. She’s very dedicated, focused, athletically talented for sure, very strong and very powerful. That’s probably her best attribute.”
This is Folz’s first year as a Level 9 gymnast and Kivinen said the gymnast has “embraced the challenge.”
“She’s grown in the last year, in terms of her maturity level. She has a new focus this past year and is still overcoming some of the challenges, like confidence on some of the events, like the beams. But I think that’s really helped her.”
But it seems Folz’s confidence is blossoming on the beams as well. Not only did she win the gold medal on the vault — an event she entered as a favourite to win, according to Kivinen — but Folz took silver on the balance beam at the 2013 Ontario Provincial Gymnastics Championships in early April.
“I want to thank my coaches for helping me and getting me to this level and helping me to push through my fears,” Folz said. “Without them, I’d never have been able to reach such a high level.”
And as she works toward her goal of reaching the national level — she’s only one level away — Folz said she’ll continue working hard and “just trying my best all the time.”