Winnipeg gymnast Justin Smith came very close to passing on this weekend's Elite Canada gymnastics meet in Calgary. After missing six months with rotator cuff injuries to both of his shoulders, the 17-year-old didn't know if he would be ready to compete after only five weeks of training.
Once he did his first routine on the parallel bars in Calgary, he knew he was ready to make up for lost time.
"Usually if I do well in the first event, I'm pretty confident for the rest of the meet," said the Flairs Gym Club gymnast, who was second on the parallel bars en route to finishing fifth in the Junior Men's all around competition in Calgary.
'Ready for routines'
"I was ready to do my routines," he said. "I knew they weren't the greatest and if I'd had those six months they would have been better. But I did the best I could."
In the individual apparatus finals Saturday, Smith finished tied for first in the floor exercise, second on the vault, tied for second on the rings and third on the parallel bars. He also was fifth on the pommel horse and sixth on the horizontal bar.
"I worked hard and (newly-hired Flairs head coach Murat Kanakaev) said I should go and just do my best," said Smith, who finished ninth in the Junior Men's all around and first in the floor and parallel bars and third in the rings and vault at last year's Elite Canada.
Meanwhile, fellow Flairs gymnasts Nicolas Lees and Patrick Oystryk were sixth and seventh respectively in the Junior Men's all around. In the individual apparatus finals, Oystryk was third in the floor exercises and fourth in the horizontal bar while Lees qualified for five of the six finals.
"Justin did well and Patrick got a medal," said Flairs coach Landon Mah. "It was the best Elite Canada we've ever had."
Traditionally, rotator cuff injuries are due to overuse and the only proven remedy is rest. But staying away from the gym is easier said than done.
"It was tough because I'd been going to the gym for so long that that's all I know," said Smith, a Grade 12 student at College Jeanne Sauve. "I didn't know what else to do with my time. Usually I come home from school and I have supper and go to the gym. But I'd come home and have nothing to do for six months."
In the Senior Men's competition, Premier Gym Club's Stephen Tetrault -- who trains in Nebraska -- was eighth in the all around.
At last year's Elite Canada, Tetrault won the Junior Men's all around title.
Rounding out the Manitobans, Jenna Kerbis of the Brandon Eagles finished 10th in the Senior Women's all around and was eighth in the balance beam apparatus final.
The results of the Elite Canada meet are used to determine the High Performance gymnasts and Gymnastics Canada national team members. These gymnasts are then eligible for international competition.
But since he missed this year's nationals due to his injuries, Smith probably will need another strong performance at nationals to secure himself a spot.
"I'm sure I did some good (with his performance) but I'm pretty sure I still have one more competition that I have to do well at," said Smith.