Julia Pohling wants to take people for a spin.
You won’t find her behind the wheel of a taxi, party bus or limousine though.
Instead, she’ll be in a large, dual-ringed wheel, demonstrating moves that would make a roller coaster operator giddy.
Pohling is a wheel gymnast.
Her sport is popular in Europe but so unknown in Canada she carries a picture of the apparatus through customs.
“It’s half of my life,” the woman from Germany says of the activity.
“It’s just a lot of fun, and I haven’t found anything else that was as much fun.”
Wheel gymnastics sees participants using dual or single hoops to do five disciplines — straight line, spiral, vault, shows and cyr wheel. (For an idea of what it looks like, watch a video of Pohling in action here.)
She got involved in the sport as a young girl more than two decades ago.
She went on to become a world champion, and has now turned her attention to coaching.
And that mentoring is happening in St. John’s.
Pohling settled here last April and opened 360 Wheel Gymnastics earlier this month.
The not-for-profit organization is offering introductory practice sessions at the College of the North Atlantic.
“I’m excited about it and I think it will work just fine,” she says of the program.
Her goals are to introduce the sport, train more coaches and develop a competitive team.
She’d also like to take a group to next year’s world championships in Chicago.
There, participants would learn from the pros and take part in various events leading up to the big competition.
Montreal is the only other city in Canada with organized wheel gymnastics.
Pohling moved to Newfoundland in 2003 for a work term while studying bio-technology.
“I fell in love with the country and the people, with one in particular,” she says.
She stayed to do her masters at Memorial, and much of her training for major competitions here.
The 2009 world cup was her last big event.
Pohling and her boyfriend decided to move to St. John’s permanently after being back and forth between here and Germany.
While she’s been around the sport for decades, setting up a program is new for her.
“I grew up in a big centre for wheel gymnastics. I never had to develop it myself.”
The biggest challenge is raising awareness.
“People just don’t know the sport exists, and that it’s here in St. John’s,” she says.
To promote 360, Pohling recently did a demonstration during half-time at a Memorial University women’s basketball game.
By all accounts, she brought the Field House down.
“It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” said Sam McNeish, a veteran hoops referee awed by Pohling’s performance.
“It was unreal how she was able to manipulate the apparatus and keep everybody riveted to what she was doing.”
Pohling says she received a lot of response from what was her first public appearance in St. John’s.
She figures people would also like the sport, for the enjoyment and the fitness, if they got on the wheel.
She says it works the whole body and anyone with a pair of sneakers can try it.
So far, Pohling has had about 10 people at class.
She says anyone who’d like to add to those numbers can come out to sessions 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday evenings at the College of the North Atlantic gym on Prince Philip Drive.
Classes are currently for ages 11 and up, but Pohling hopes to expand to seven and up once the program has enough money to buy more wheels.
She notes the organization is affiliated with Gymnastics Newfoundland and Labrador.
Asked what goes through her mind in the middle of a routine, Pohling smiles, and then says, “You’re mind is kind of shut off to the outside. Your in own little world.”
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