Prince George, B.C. native and 13-year-old Alia Wilson is at her first major games and although women’s competition doesn’t begin until tomorrow, Aug. 10, Wilson’s mother Wendy was in the stands cheering loud and proud for the Team BC men.
“We travel all the time for competitions,” says Wendy. “As a parent, it’s about commitment and support for your kid – no matter what sport they are in.”
Adopted from China at a young age, Alia was put into gymnastics at 18-months-old to help with her lower body muscle development.
“In just six months we could see amazing progress in her strength,” says Wendy, who coincidentally had a passion for gymnastics when in high school. “Alia is a shy girl and since day one gymnastics has been so good for her confidence. I love watching her passion when she competes. She works so hard, has such big aspirations and it’s great to see her outlet it (in gymnastics).”
It wasn’t much different for Jeff Kiers, father of Team BC men’s gymnast Cohen Kiers. The Kiers family enrolled Cohen into gymnastics at a young age and have since been ready and willing to travel, cheer and support Cohen and his team mates.
“Cohen was a bouncy kid and he had a strong upper body so we thought gymnastics might suit him,’ describes Jeff. “Either way you just have to be so proud of your kid. Cohen is so focused. He works so hard and you see that in competition and you see it in school.”
The Kiers family calls Abbotsford home and Cohen, who just turned 16, trains out of Twisters Gymnastics Club under quality guidance. Former Olympian Richard Ikeda is a coach at both Twisters and for Team BC at this year’s games. Cohen trains under both Richard and brother Ken Ikeda, a two-time Olympian.
“It’s a huge financial commitment to have a kid in high level sport but we are behind him because he loves it and works so hard,” describes Jeff, whose family has had to put spring break plans on halt for several years due to an annual gymnastics competition Twisters. “It’s all about encouragement though.
He does this sport by his choice. These athletes have so much drive and shows in so many other parts of life. Although gymnastics has athletes competing and performing individually both Wendy Wilson and Jeff Kiers noted that parents of all gymnastics athletes are very supportive of the sport in general.
“Gymnastics is kind of different in that way,” says Jeff about the culture in the crowds. “There is huge support for everyone. You will hear all the other team’s cheering on each other and everyone’s family is supportive of all the athletes.”
Following opening day of competition Cohen Kiers stepped on top of the podium twice, first as Team BC won the men’s team event, and then again moments later as winner of the men’s all around event.
Both Alia Wilson and Cohen Kiers have long-term aspirations of competing at the Olympics. Both train at least five times a week for a minimum of 24 hours per week. With parental support like that of Wendy and Jeff it’s no doubt that these athletes will go far.