Grand Falls-Windsor -
Aaron Andrews stood alone as the sole male artistic gymnastics competitor for the Western team at this week's Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games.
And at the end of competition on Tuesday, the 11-year-old from Saltos Gymnastics in Corner Brook stood alone atop the podium, taking first place overall in the boys' individual competition.
"I think I did good," a humble Aaron said Monday before receiving his gold medal.
"I wasn't really practising Level 1."
John Andrews says his son, who started in a local recreation program about seven years ago, has been working towards his Level 2 and 3, but had the chance to compete in the Games at Level 1.
"He's been doing that quite regularly in Level 1," John says. "A couple of weeks ago, he came first overall in Level 2, a bit of a surprise to us."
Aaron, who got into the sport because he wanted to learn to cartwheel, spent a year playing minor hockey with his friends, but when a decision had to be made where to focus his athletic endeavours, the St. Gerard's student quickly made up his mind.
"Once it conflicted with gymnastics, he said 'hockey is gone, gymnastics isn't.' He really loves it," says John.
At home, he and sister Claire, a fellow Saltos gymnast, work on flexibility, and not without a flair for competitiveness, Dad attests.
"Claire doesn't like to lose and doesn't like when her brother beats her at anything."
Aaron is coached by Peter Ginn in Corner Brook, one of many coaches he's had over the years. His development in the sport, John says, has been hampered by a struggle to maintain male coaches at the small club.
"A few other coaches he's had in the past have gone on to different jobs or moved away. They slide out of Corner Brook when they get to the age where they're able to teach the higher level kids.
"We're struggling for coaches now and that's probably why he's not up to Level 4."
John says there are coaches in the region who are quite capable of instructing, but suggests they're not interested in working out of an old facility like the one the Saltos club uses.
"We're working on getting new facilities and bringing in some coaches," he said.
If they're successful in that regard, Aaron's aim is for the Canada Winter Games next year in Halifax.
"We'll see how that works before we decide if he'll enter the Games as a special participant who can do one or two events or if he can actually go in as a full member," said John.
"He's built for gymnastics. If we can get the coaching, he'll do very well."
And how does Aaron feel about a possible trip to Halifax next year.
"That'd be nice, a week of school missed," he said.