A local baton team has twirled its way to international gold in a prestigious competition.
Team Toba — which comprises of eight members from Greendell (St. Vital), Magic ‘n’ Motion (Southdale) and Aerial Fusion (East Kildonan and Transcona) — recently landed first place in the team’s competition at the International Cup in the Netherlands.
Team Toba beat out rivals from 19 other teams from nations including Australia, Canada, England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, Slovenia and Switzerland.
One of the team’s coaches said the competition was structured with elite, A level and B level teams and had relatively unknown expectations going into battle.
"Going in, we didn’t really have any expectations," said Leisha Strachan, 39, a Fort Richmond resident and professor at the University of Manitoba, who specializes in sports psychology. "We knew we had strong B level athletes, but we didn’t know what those athletes were like in other countries."
Strachan, a former baton twirler of international pedigree, said bringing gold medals back to the province was an "awesome" experience.
"I can’t really explain it. As a coach, it was nice to see them have the opportunity to perform.
That was special enough. But to win was really, really great and a confidence boost for them — especially as the sport is not recognized as much as other sports, " Strachan said, noting she was inspired as a young baton twirler by Winnipeg legend Lucinda McMaster.
"I feel extremely proud to help continue the legacy of baton twirling in Manitoba. It’s a legacy of success. I hope this will motivate the next generation of athletes and I’m so happy for our athletes, who work so hard, to have had this opportunity."
In terms of the baton twirling demographic, Strachan said the minimum age range to compete in the International Cup is 12, but twirlers as young as six and seven take part on a local level. There are also plenty of boys involved, she added.
Regarding the recent competition, Team Toba was in first place going into the second and final round and held its nerve to bring home gold.
"The final round is in reverse order, so we had to go on last in the last round," Strachan said, noting the team in the Netherlands comprised of eight members, including one alternate.
"This meant we couldn’t watch the other teams, as we had to practice hard and stay focused. They had to trust each other and each other’s skill. In this situation, they were able to learn a lot about themselves and what they could handle and they were able to rise to the occasion."
For more information about baton twirling, visit www.manitobabaton.com