Halifax—Anybody who’s watched the movie will remember the scene. Gene Hackman takes his small group of wide-eyed, backwoods kids from tiny Hickory High into the Indiana state basketball finals, in the picture ‘Hoosiers’, based loosely on a true story.
Jaws drop as the players walk into an Indianapolis arena that seats thousands. Coach Norman Dale, played by Hackman, grabs a tape and measures the distance of the rim to floor.
Same height as the gym back home in tiny Hickory.
We may be a bit melodramatic here, but one is reminded of that as Josh Holloway glances around the spacious $50 million Canada Games Centre in Halifax, where the gymnastics competition for the 2011 Canada Winter Games is staged.
“It’s big,” mumbles the Newfoundland gymnast. “Bigger than our gym.”
All but two of thee Newfoundland gymnasts are from the St. John’s-Mount Pearl-C.B.S. area, and train at either Mount Pearl’s Campia club or the new Cygnus Gymnastics Club in St. John’s.
The exceptions are Gander’s James Kelly and the 15-year-old Holloway, who’s limited to four hours a week at Glovertown Academy, where he’s a Grade 10 student.
There’s some equipment at school, certainly not what one would find at Campia or Cygnus. And you can imagine some of the clubs in Ontario and Quebec.
After school, Holloway and the 10 or so competitive gymnasts at Glovertown Academy haul out the mats and the bit of gear for the two-hour practice each and every Monday and Wednesday. After their workout, they have to store the stuff away again for the next day’s phys ed classes.
The coaches are a few local volunteers.
“And if you watch him now,” said Campia coach Ken Budgell, one of the Newfoundland mentors here in Halifax, “he’s doing the same level of vaults a lot of these guys are doing. He’s right up there with them, and that’s from four hours a week vs 16 to 20 hours per week for most.”
Holloway may be relatively green to the sport, but the kid’s got talent.
And at 5-foot-2 (”maybe,” he says) and 105 pounds, he’s got a gymnast’s build.
And the fact he cracked the Canada Games roster is a testament to his ability. Imagine a hockey player with two skates a week, on an outdoor rink, making the Games team?
So you wonder how good Holloway could be if he had more training time in a state-of-the-art facility?
“That’s the big what if,” said Budgell. “If he had the same advantages as the kids in Mount Pearl or St. John’s, or if Glovertown had more facilities, where would he be right now?
“He might even be chasing medals if he had those kind of resources.”
Before these Games, Holloway’s biggest competitions were the Atlantic and Eastern Canadian championships. He showed enough at those and at a series of tryout camps to convince the coaching staff to give him a shot.
“It’s fun times,” he said, “when I’m competing and when I do everything right. When there are no mess-ups.”
For now, he’s enjoying the whole Canada Games experience, though he’s a bit frustrated with the whole pin trading fad.
“It’s a bit competitive,” he said.
As for future plans, he’s considering Memorial University and joining either the Campia or Cygnus clubs.
And then, perhaps, the sky’s the limit.
“I don’t know,” he said, “this is pretty big, though.”
He was talking about the whole Canada Games event.
The gym, too.