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The Women's Sports Alliance

PRESENTS...

Ellie Black – Gymnastics Goals, Motivations and Being ‘Team Mom’ for Canada

“The advice I give to young gymnasts is to dream big and work hard, but don’t compare yourself to others,” three-time Canadian Olympian Ellie Black tells the WSA. “Everyone is unique and will have their own path so embrace that and the journey!”

Image: @ellieblack_


16 Commonwealth and Pan-American medals, as well as three World Championship honours, make Ellie Black by far the most decorated Canadian gymnast in history.


She has also attained her nation’s best-ever results at the Olympics and despite entering her ‘twilight’ years in the sport, at 28, she remains at the peak of her powers.


Should Ellie, as is widely expected, reach Paris 2024 she will set a new national record by appearing at her fourth Games.


There the gymnast will target a maiden Olympic podium finish.


However, while – based on her World silver medal-winning performance on the beam at the 2022 World Championships – she will be seen as a strong individual contender, Ellie herself is prioritising squad success.


“The team comes first, it’s number one to me,” she insists to the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).


“My goal is to grow Canadian Gymnastics and I want to be that leader who can help the team have great opportunities and experiences like I’ve had.”


From injury exclusion to Olympic inclusion

Image: @ellieblack_


Ellie began her gymnastics journey at the age of nine after being inspired by watching athletes competing in the sport on television during coverage of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in China.


She was also a keen figure skater, like her elder sister Karen, but ultimately Ellie decided she would focus on her summer sport discipline – artistic gymnastics.


Raised in Halifax, in Eastern Canada, Ellie made her breakthrough as a junior in 2010 when, at the age of 13 she claimed gold in the beam event and finished third on the vault at the national championships.


Her progress was hampered by dislocations to her elbow and toe the following year, but the teenager made a remarkable return in 2012, excelling not only as a junior but for the first time in senior competitions too.


Ellie earned a surprise call-up for the Canadian Olympic team for the Games in London that summer and memories of the mentoring she received ahead of, as well as during, that event had a fundamental impact on how she would approach the sport in the following years.


“People call me ‘team mom’ but I’ve had a lot of ‘teen moms’ myself,” she recalls.


“I remember when I went to my first Olympics, when I was just 16 and had no experience, there was Kristina Vaculik.


“She made me feel comfortable and gave me words of wisdom which kept me calm, so I learned a lot from her as my first ‘mom’ on the team.”


When winning became a habit

Image: @ellieblack_


A maiden Commonwealth title – on the beam – would follow in 2014, before she claimed three golds, including the prestigious All-Around crown at the 2015 Pan American Games.


The following year, at Rio 2016, Ellie came fifth in the All-Around final to secure her nation’s best-ever result in the sport.


Fuelled by that result 12 months later Ellie would become the first Canadian in history to win an All-Around World Championships medal, when she placed second.


Further Commonwealth and Pan-American golds would follow before she finished an agonising fourth on the beam at the Tokyo Olympic Games.


While there was frustration at having come so close to securing the medal she had dreamed of since childhood, there was also immense pride at the progress made in gymnastics, as well as her growth away from it.


“I'm very passionate about the sport that I do, but I'm also very passionate about my family, my community, my friends and I really care about helping others,” says Ellie, who is also a keen cook.


“I can be pretty fun and silly, because I like to keep it light and cool with singing and dancing so there’s a lot things that make me who I am and it’s important to have that balance.”


More medals and historic Canadian accomplishments

Image: @ellieblack_


After the Tokyo Games Ellie was one of only two non-USA gymnasts to be invited to take part in the Simone Biles led ‘Gold Over America Tour’ which was an all-female event and brought together sport as well as entertainment in the hope of inspiring future athletes.


Upon her full-time return to the sport in 2022 Ellie qualified for what was her seventh senior World Championships.


In Liverpool, UK, she helped Canada claim their first-ever global gymnastics team medal –bronze – which also secured them a quota place for the Paris Olympics.


“Qualifying a team for Canada to Paris 2024 was unreal and for me personally as well as for the team it really was a big goal and accomplishment,” says the gymnast.


“It allowed us to go home and really push our difficulty and work on our consistency which is really very important for our team as we build.


“It also helps take a little stress and pressure off the other girls on the team (qualifying for the Olympics 18 months early).”


A PODIUM FINISH IN PARIS?

Image: @ellieblack_


The 2023 World Championships – taking place in Antwerp, Belgium, from 30 Sept to 8 October – will provide Ellie and her team with a further opportunity to test themselves against the best gymnasts on the planet ahead of next year’s Olympics.


“Yes, we’ve qualified a team (for Paris 2024), but we have to still work hard to earn your spot on that team,” she tells the WSA.


“We’ve had a bit more time to try new skills, push our difficulty and get better as a team, as well as individually so I really think it’s all going to play together to make our team even stronger.”


Ellie is reluctant to talk specifically about the team’s targets come Paris 2024, but insists she still follows every word of her life motto.


‘Dream big, don’t let anyone else set your limits.’

Image: @ellieblack_

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