From a simple cartwheel to a spot on the Canadian men’s national team: that is the path of Zach Clay.
Clay’s introduction to gymnastics was inconspicuous enough.
With his Kindergarten class rehearsing for a play, the teacher was in search of one child to do a cartwheel as part of the performance.
“Apparently I was the one who had the best cartwheel they had ever seen,” recalled the now 24-year-old with a chuckle.
After watching the youngster effortlessly execute the manouvre, Clay’s teachers suggested to his parents that perhaps gymnastics might be a good sport for him. Nearly two decades later, that prediction still holds true.
Clay got his start in the sport with Langley’s Flip City Gymnastics Centre, before progressing to Abbotsford’s Twisters Gymnastics Club, the club he still trains with to this day.
But in addition to his time with Twisters, the Chilliwack man has been a mainstay with the Canadian Men’s Artistic Gymnastics National Team for the past several years, including competing for Canada at four World Championships (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018).
He has a trio of top five all-around finishes in the last three Canadian championships, including winning the title in 2017.
And this week Clay is back in Langley, the community where his gymnastics career took its first leap, at the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics (MAG) Elite Canada 2019 competition.
The event is hosted by Gymnastics Canada and Langley Gymnastics Foundation at Langley Events Centre on Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20 and will take place in the Arena Bowl.
We are just over a week away from welcoming the top Canadian male gymnasts for #MAGElite2019 on July 19/20 to see who wins the title of Elite Canadian Champion More info at https://t.co/UPveWGN3bI pic.twitter.com/wvseoNJEqr
— Langley Events Centre (@LangleyEvents) July 12, 2019
The most talented male gymnasts from across the country will be performing awe-inspiring skills at this event as they look to earn a spot to represent Canada this October at the World Championships in Germany.
The gymnasts will be competing in the MAG Elite 4, junior and senior levels.
Joining Clay in Langley will be Rene Cournoyer, Justin Karstadt, Corey Paterson and Sam Zakutney. Karstadt and Zakutney are both from Ontario while Cournoyer and Paterson are from Quebec and following the Elite Canada event at LEC, the five will depart for Lima, Peru to compete at the 2019 Pan American Games, another chance to show the coaches and those selecting the team for October, what they are capable of.
Clay says representing his country is a phenomenal feeling and incredible honour.
“It does definitely get a bit easier, but you still go out there and sometimes it can be nerve-wracking, but for the most part, you get used to it,” he said about wearing the Maple Leaf.
“I am able to focus on what I need to do a little better now.”
But in the meantime, Clay is happy to be back in Langley competing close to home so that his family and friends can come cheer him on.
“It feels fantastic. The last time we had a big event like this, I was just a little guy. It feels amazing to have it back in BC and especially having it back in Langley.”
Friday, July 19
10:10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Elite 4 and Junior All Around
4:40 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Senior Men All Around
Saturday, July 20
10:40 a.m. to 2 p.m. Elite 4 Apparatus Finals
3:55 p.m. to 7 p.m. Junior/Senior Apparatus Finals
Children (6 and under) free
Youth (7 to 17) and Senior (65+) $6
Adults (18+) $12
Family (maximum of 4) $25
For more information, visit www.gymcan.org