North's Cooper Making Her Mark at Games

Article excerpt

Gymnast competes despite injury

MORDEN -- It took 10 hours to drive from the province's northern reaches down to these Manitoba Games, and Eve Cooper's excitement grew along the way.

Cooper is a gymnast, a Flin Flon kid. She is just 12 years old. She was the only competitor for the Norman team in her age group, and one of just a handful of gymnasts from the north that qualified to make these Games.

She trained so hard to make these Games, practising bars and vault at the school gymnasium in Flin Flon where coach Sheena Reed shares space with a basketball team and a dodgeball league.

So when Cooper tripped and jammed her finger before the Manitoba Games competition even started, that was a tough break. A nurse suggested she withdraw, but the gymnast wasn't about to sit out.

So on Tuesday afternoon, she taped her finger and pushed through the pain to compete with all the other 12-year-old girls at Morden's Access Event Centre. She tried every apparatus, and after she danced and tumbled across the floor, her score came back a personal best.

So just being there, that was its own success.

"It's a once in a lifetime chance," Cooper said. "I didn't want to come down here and not do anything, because I've worked really, really hard for this. I didn't want to say, 'No, I'm not competing today.' "

Her coaches were so proud of her. It's no small thing to bring a gymnast up in northern Manitoba and get them ready for the Manitoba Games. The Thompson Tumblers recently moved into their first dedicated gymnastics space. Flin Flon is too small for that, so Reed makes do in âcole McIsaac gym.

Her program has one set of bars, one beam. So while Winnipeg gymnasts may get an hour on an apparatus every week, gymnasts in Flin Flon's program might get 10 minutes.

But guided by a volunteer coaching team -- it helps keep the program affordable -- kids in Flin Flon have embraced the sport. There's a wait list, even. And those who go through the program often come back: Reed has kept gymnastics running in the community for 27 years, and many of her assistant coaches were once just kids tumbling under her watch. …