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G.I. gymnasts get past nervousness

KAPAA — About the only thing Auree Cardinez remembers about the Aloha Gymfest was that she was nervous and there were a lot of people.

Cardinez was one of six Garden Island Gymnastics athletes to participate in the Aloha Gymfest competition on Oahu under the U.S. Gymnastics banner.

The Kauai gymnasts were part of an international field of performers who hailed from around Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Australia in the one-day gymfest.

“It was a really good event,” said Karla Villanueva-Bernal, Garden Island Gymnastics director. “The girls were acknowledged as being the first girls to compete under U.S. Gymnastics, and the people at the competition were very warm, friendly, and had a lot of praise for our girls.”

Villanueva-Bernal said the girls were competing in Level 3, a field of about 50 competitors.

“They were really nervous,” she said. “They did really well. Once they got started, the nervousness disappeared and they started having fun.”

Cardinez was one of two girls who came home to Kauai with medals, taking first place overall in her level after compiling 9.4 points in vaulting, 9.0 points in beams, 8.7 points in bar, and 9.4 points in floor.

“This is the first competition I have done after going to gymnastics for five years,” said the petite Kapaa Elementary School student. “I was very nervous, and there were a lot of people.”

Keala Contrades was also nervous.

“The track (on the beam) was a lot skinnier than the one we use,” Contrades said. “I was nervous. We performed in a place way bigger than Garden Island Gymnastics, and there was so much people.”

Contrades was the second Garden Island Gymnastics gymnasts to return home with a medal — second place in vaulting after carding a score of 9.55 points.

The six girls, including Brandi Baligad, Jayda Maier, Kaley Yamaguchi, Jazmyne Ganir, Cardinez and Contrades, were given an opportunity to show off their competition uniforms and the medals they returned home with, Monday when the Level 3 class opened in Kapaa.

“These students, some of them brand new to the sport, all want to be like these six girls,” Villanueva-Bernal said. want to be competitive.”

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