Bay of Plenty's best gymnasts will take on their biggest challenge of the year this week.
Starting tomorrow, 65 Bay gymnasts will compete at the 2019 New Zealand Championships in Auckland.
Te Puke 14-year-old Sam Eastergaard has been doing gymnastics for 11 years - seven years competitively. This will be his third year competing in tumbling at nationals but his first time qualifying for artistic.
"I'm pretty nervous, first nationals doing artistic, but hopefully it will be good. I've always done artistic but I've never qualified before.
"I enjoy the environment at gymnastics - we have awesome coaches and awesome people. It's a nice, supportive environment. That helps with the nerves."
He said the Bay of Plenty team all got along well and were lucky to have such great coaches.
"The coaches are really cool, really supportive and really knowledgeable. I like gymnastics because you can do cool flips and tricks, there's awesome people and there's always something new to learn. I practise four days a week."
The Bay of Plenty squad comprises 27 trampoline and tumble gymnasts, 26 male and female artistic gymnasts, 10 rhythmic gymnasts, and two aerobic gymnasts, each athlete carefully selected from gymnastics clubs throughout the region.
They will be accompanied by 20 support staff. Among them is trampoline and tumbling head coach Lynette Farkash from MIGS in Rotorua.
"Training preparations are going really well and we are excited to be heading up to Auckland – we will be aiming to defend our titles and bring home those medals," she said.
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Women's artistic head coach Ebony Matenga, from Impact Gymsport Academy in Mount Maunganui, is also looking forward to leading the gymnasts to success at nationals.
"We've got a great bunch of gymnasts. Many have competed at nationals before, so they know what to expect," she said.
It will be Matenga's first time in the head coach role for nationals.
"It's a lot of responsibility, but I'm always up for a challenge."
Competing on the national stage in front of and against the best gymnasts in the country is a daunting prospect.
Luckily, Rotorua 13-year-old Aaria Tana has the perfect tonic.
"It's helpful because I've always had my friends in my age group so they always support me, even when we compete against each other. We all support each other and if someone bombs we all go and help them out," she said.
Aaria will compete in trampoline and double mini. This will be her fourth national championships.
"I'm kind of excited but at the same time really nervous. I've had some very good and some very bad [national championships]. Me and my synchro partner got third once and last year I got third in tramp.
"My goals this year are to do my best and just try as hard as I can not to bomb."
She has been doing gymnastics for about five years.
"I used to live in Wellington and I did cheerleading there but there wasn't any cheerleading here when we moved so I started tumbling. My coach who taught me tumbling said I'd be good at trampoline so now I do that.
"It's really fun and it also keeps up your fitness. There's such great people at MIGS (Mid Island Gym Sport) too, it's really nice."
New Zealand Gymnastics Championships
Trusts Arena in Auckland
Bay of Plenty Gymnastics squad:
27 trampoline and tumble gymnasts
26 men and women artistic gymnasts
10 rhythmic gymnasts
2 aerobics gymnasts
Women's artistic head coach Ebony Matenga
Men's artistic head coach Gavin Lodge
Trampoline head coach Lynette Farkash
Tumble head coach Pam Walters
Rhythmic head coach Gabrielle Nielson
Future Gymnastics – Rhythmic
Te Puke Gymsport
Argos Gymnastics, Tauranga
Impact Gymsport Academy, Mount Maunganui
Mid Island Gym Sports, Rotorua