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This article was published 24/7/2015 (2201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A pair of competitive baton twirlers from East Kildonan are stepping up to put Winnipeg on the map.
Jennifer Parisian, 22, and Caitlyn De Jong, 13, recently returned from Oshawa, Ont., where members of Aerial Fusion Baton competed at the Canadian Baton Twirling Championships.
Incorporating elements of gymnastics and dance with the art of baton twirling, competitive twirlers take part in individual and group competitions. Points are awarded based on technical proficiency, difficulty and creativity, as in gymnastics or synchronized swimming.
"(De Jong) got a lot of hardware," said a smiling Parisian, who coaches the younger twirler.
De Jong took home five medals, placing in every group and individual event she competed in. Parisian competed in two group events, taking home gold and bronze medals for her efforts. Both Parisian and De Jong said that baton is a sport which constantly provides challenges.
"There’s always something new or something to improve on," Parisian said. Now a psychology undergrad at the University of Manitoba, Parisian started twirling when she was six. "There’s so many things you can do. You can do one, two, three, even four batons. I’ll never stop learning as long as I do it."
"It’s a unique sport," added De Jong, who attends Calvin Christian Collegiate (706 Day St.). "I just think that’s really cool."
However, baton twirling at this level is not as easy as you might think.
"It’s hard to push through sometimes," De Jong admitted. "It hurts and feels like I’m going to fall sometimes. But I don’t want to let down my teammates."
Throughout the year, members of Aerial Fusion Baton train between 10 and 15 hours a week out of Salisbury Morse Place School (795 Prince Rupert Ave.) and Joseph Teres School (131 Sanford Fleming Rd.). Many competitive twirlers will also be involved in gymnastics and dance.
"Dancing is very important," said Parisian, who is currently training for the upcoming International Cup Competition. Taking place in Abbotsford, B.C. from Aug. 5 to 9, Parisian will compete in one individual and two team events.
"Our team’s routine is three and a half minutes long," she said. "It’s high intensity, and usually I’m dying by the end. But I’m trying to get into better shape, doing a lot of preparing your body for the long days."
Parisian is no stranger to the International Cup. In 2013, she was a member of the Manitoba provincial team that took home first place in the gold medal in the Netherlands at the adult B level.
"Our team has been together for three years now," she said. "We’re the same team that won in Amsterdam."
Apart from building up her conditioning, Parisian said she needs to avoid injury, a problem that has plagued her for years.
"I’ve dislocated my knees several times. I wear braces on my knees when I twirl because they will pop out otherwise," she said. "That’s been my biggest challenge, and realizing I do have limitations, which is hard to accept sometimes."
De Jong’s next big challenge will come in September, when she plans to take her twirling game to the next level and try out for the provincial team.
"I’m focusing on the harder tricks, the tricks they do on a team," she said.
This year, Parisian’s hard work with the baton and the books won her two substantial scholarships. The Canadian Baton Twirling Association singled her out for one at this year’s Canadian championships, while Sport Manitoba awarded her the second. And though she enjoys competition, Parisian said she is working with some other older twirlers to set up more recreational opportunities to continue with the baton, while bowing out of the competitive field.
"We’re trying to explore different ways to do that," she said.
To live stream the International Cup Competition, check out www.batonbiz.com. The team is also hosting a send off performance at Investors Group Athletics Centre (75 Sidney Smith St.) from 8 to 9 p.m. on Tues., July 28.
If you’re interested in getting into baton twirling, there will be a baton camp for beginners Aug. 31, Sept. 2 and 3 at Bronx Park Community Centre (720 Henderson Hwy.). For more information, visit www.manitobabaton.com
The Herald community journalist
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112