Four members of Regina’s Sundown Optimist Baton Group (SOBG) have qualified to compete for Canada at the World Baton Twirling Championships in Liverpool, England this summer.
Annabelle Kish, Elise Miller, Annabelle Porter, and Julee Stewart qualified after their performances last weekend at the National Qualifier event in Oshawa, Ont.
Maureen Johnson, founder of Martin School of Dane and director of SOBG, said she was very happy to hear of the qualifications.
“You always go into the National Qualifier not knowing who your competition is, you don’t really see too much of them until the qualifier. So for me it was very rewarding and I could relax a little bit because I knew they were at the top of their game,” she said.
Now the group will prepare to take part in a historic World Championship event.
“There used to be an event called the International Cup as well as the Grand Prix and this is the very first time that these two different baton organizations are combining into one,” Stewart explained.
“We’re a part of WBTF [World Baton Twirling Federation] and there’s another organization called WFNBTA [World Federation of National Baton Twirling Associations]. They’re combining for their very first World Baton Twirling Championships this summer.”
Despite the change, Stewart has plenty of experience on the international stage already as she will be competing in her 10th World Championships. In 2019, she placed first in the Elite Three Baton at the International Cup and was also a World Silver medallist in 2022.
“It’s such an honour to be able to represent Team Canada on a world stage. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world,” Stewart exclaimed.
The 26-year-olds’ teammates Porter, 15, and Miller, 16, have also attended Worlds’ events for the sport. Both Porter and Miller competed Elite at the World Championships in 2022 and the International Cup in 2019.
“I learned that it’s sometimes difficult to twirl under pressure but the practice will carry you through if you’ve worked all summer,” Miller said on how she is using last year’s experience to help her prepare. “I think it’s going to be really challenging, but it’ll be really exciting [this year].”
“It was definitely different than any other competition I’ve competed in before. It was definitely a new experience travelling a really long ways and competing with so many different athletes. Since I had really only competed with one or two athletes in my category in Saskatchewan and Canada,” Porter reflected on the 2022 Championships.
However, for 13-year-old Kish, this will be her first time experiencing the international competition.
“I’m excited to see everybody twirl and all the different countries. I just feel very proud and happy that I get to do that [represent my country] my first time every trying to go,” Kish said.
Kish qualified to compete in two baton and artistic twirl after her performances last weekend.
“It was really cool because I’ve never been anywhere against other clubs from different provinces,” she said.
As for Kish’s teammates: Stewart will compete in five events, Miller in seven, and Porter in seven come August.
The newly formed World Championships is an exciting step for the sport that is trying to gain traction amongst its audience.
Stewart said the team is happy to be a part of the inaugural experience, which will hopefully be a first step into getting baton twirling into the Olympics.
“I believe baton twirling is a very unique sport. There are a lot of different elements that are combined in baton twirling. We do gymnastics, a lot of dancing, and we also do a lot of acrobatic type movements. We use heavy hand-eye coordination. Our sport also requires conditioning to make sure we are able to last the two and half minute routines,” she said.
Miller and Porter agreed that baton twirling should be added to the Olympics.
“It’s super challenging and it’s super difficult. It’s very similar to figure skating and rhythmic gymnastics. So I feel like it would be a very interesting sport and lots of people enjoying watching,” Miller said on why she believes it should become an Olympic sanctioned event.
“I think it should be an Olympic sport just because it’s so unique and different from all the other ones. There’s a lot of different elements and components that go into baton twirling and I think it would be interesting to watch compared to other sports,” Porter said.
The World Championships will take place from Aug. 9-13.
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