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West Oahu Athlete Wins Daytona Gold

Sydney Senter isn’t an Olympian yet, but she’s off to a strong start.

The Aiea resident won first place in 11-12 girls double mini-trampoline at the 23rd World Age Group Competitions for Trampoline and Tumbling Nov. 13-16 at Daytona Beach, Fla.

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Sydney Senter took first place in double mini-trampoline 11-12 girls division at the 2014 Trampoline & Tumbling World Age Group Competitions, which took place last month at Daytona Beach, Fla. Senter beat out Viktoriia Khodevtseva (second place) and Erifilly Heonos (third place) with a final score of 65.1. Photo from Nikki Senter.

Coach Nani Vercruyssen explained that this international event determines Olympic qualifications at higher levels, but for 12-year-old Senter, who competes for Hawaii Trampoline and Tumbling Club and trains at Hawaii Academy, it still serves as a valuable beginning.

“It’s a meet that sets you up for the Olympics. This is a way they can gain huge international experience because all of the countries that participate in trampoline are participating in this event,” Vercruyssen said. “For her age and her level right now, this is the biggest meet possible.”

Even bigger was the fact that Senter was one of two athletes selected to represent the U.S. in her age group — and both were from Hawaii (Kayttie Nakamura from East Oahu was the other).

“I felt really privileged that I was able to compete for the U.S. because it’s something different, and I’ve never done it,” Senter said. “I usually compete for Hawaii, but to be on the U.S. team was really cool, and I got to meet a lot of new people.”

The event itself — which saw Senter performing gymnastic feats atop a double mini-trampoline — went by in a blur.

“During warmups, I kind of got nervous because it was the biggest competition of my life, and it kind of hit me at that time,” Senter said.

But she powered through her nerves, reasoning that since this was her first time competing at this level, it didn’t matter if she won or lost.

But, of course, she won with 65.1 points, beating out Viktoriia Khodevtseva of Russia (64.7) and Erifilly Heonos of Great Britain (64.1) for the prize. Senter was excited about her win, and so was her coach.

“Being my first experience as a coach … I mean, I competed through all these events many, many times, so for me, getting to see (Senter) as my athlete, and her achieving that was really special,” Vercruyssen said.

At age 22, Vercruyssen is herself a decorated gymnast and World Age Group Competition winner, having won in 2005 and in two categories in 2007.

Senter’s new goal is to … well, do it again.

“Since I won double mini, I want to go to Worlds for trampoline,” Senter mused.

She also wants to advance to the World Championship level of competition, and, of course, head to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I know she can do it,” said Vercruyssen. “The second she came back, she was motivated for next year.”

Other winners from Hawaii include Moanalua Middle School student Alexander Paul, who won bronze in 11-12 boys synchronized trampoline.

Nakamura took fourth in 11-12 girls double mini-trampoline and 11-12 girls synchronized trampoline.

Hawaii Academy has two locations — one at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Youth Fitness Gym (military only) and the other at Kalihi on Moonui Street.

For more information on the program, visit hawaiiacademy.com.

Competition replays are available online at usagym.org/pages/tt/pages, or you can find them on YouTube.com.