Nathan Gafuik Embarks on Next Olympic Journey

Last August, under the curved roof of Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium, two Calgary gymnasts set Canadian records in gymnastics. In the Olympic all-around final, Nathan Gafuik finished 17th and Adam Wong 15th, the highest marks ever attained by Canadian male gymnasts in the event.

Gafuik, speaking from Calgary, said his initial Olympic experience gave him a glimpse of what it will take to be one of the world’s top gymnasts. “I saw the type of routines that won Olympic medals and I can use that information to develop new routines for myself,” he said.

He applied that information to the Canadian gymnastics championships held recently in Hamilton. Gafuik used the event as a training point for the 2009 World Championships, testing new routines, under pressure, amid great competition. (His floor routine netted him top spot.) He aims now to be in a position to win more World Cup medals and reach the finals of World Championships and then the London 2012 Olympic Games.

All along the way he plans to bring the things he sees back to his home gym and learn them himself. “That’s huge motivation,” he said.

Another source of motivation for Gafuik is Olympic gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt, who announced his retirement in May. He said that Shewfelt always came prepared to each training camp and competition and illustrated for his teammates a “level of excellence and technical presence” they would strive to add to their own routines.

“There is a major difference in our team since 2004,” Gafuik said of the year that Shewfelt won Olympic gold in floor. “We grew into ourselves in terms of presence on the floor. That has a lot to do with how Kyle carried himself in the gym. That is something that will last.”

Shewfelt has left behind a team gaining depth and strength following the national championships. Brandon O’Neill (Edmonton), whose ankle injury early last August hampered his Olympic routines, competed in Hamilton for the first time since then and looked strong, Gafuik said. The team has a nucleus now with Gafuik, O’Neil, Wong, long-time veteran Ken Ikeda (Abbotsford, B.C.) and 2009 Canadian overall champion Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.). There are, Gafuik said, up-and-comers as well that include 2009 Canadian high bar champion Kevin Lytwyn (Burlington, Ont.).

Sandy has rejoined the team after a tremendous career in the NCAA. In 2009 he was named top college gymnast in the United States. Now that school is over, Sandy’s presence on the team will take on greater significance. “He was very successful in the NCAA, learned a lot and cleaned up his gymnastics a lot,” Gafuik said. “He will be great to have around for the next few years.”

The next major event highlighted on Gafuik’s calendar is undoubtedly October’s World Championships in London. To that competition he will bring an increasingly confident and relaxed attitude, fostered by his resolve in Beijing last summer.