National Gymnastics Day - Firefly Books Blog

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National Gymnastics Day

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It’s National Gymnastics Day and we are lucky to have Elfi Schlegel in the Firefly Books family of authors. Elfi Schlegel was a member of the Canadian National Team from 1976 to 1985, won two gold medals at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and in 1979 won a team gold and individual bronze medal at the Pan Am Games. Elfi won Canada's first World Cup gymnastics medal, a bronze in the vault, in 1980 (and these are just a few of her accomplishments).


For over 20 years, Elfi has run Schlegel's Gymnastics Centre in Oakville, Ontario with her sister, former gymnast Andrea Schlegel. Elfi, along with Claire Ross Dunn, used her expertise in the sport to create an excellent beginner’s guide called The Gymnastics Book (now in its third edition) to inspire and encourage budding gymnasts to learn the fundamental moves to get started.




From the book’s preface, Elfi explains how she got into gymnastics:

“One Saturday in 1972, I wandered away from my arts and craft class at the local recreation center and opened the doors to the gymnasium. Behind them I discovered what would become my playground for the next 15 years.

My first year was spent in a recreational gymnastics program – a one-hour weekly affair that my mother observed from the back of the gym.  A few years later, at age 10, I began to take gymnastics more seriously. I was named to the Ontario provincial team and competed in the Canadian National Championships. I finished 10th – a result that surprised many, including me – and I was described as the most promising gymnast in Canada. From then on I wanted to become an Olympian.

Watching Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Montreal Olympics taught me what it would take to make my dreams a reality. My teammates and I watched from the stands in awe while Nadia racked up all those perfect 10s. From that day on, if my coach asked me to practice a routine a dozen times, I did so willingly.

In 1978, I was crowned Canadian National Champion, won 2 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and became a member of the World Championship Team. A year later, Canada celebrated a monumental victory, winning gold over the United States at the Pan AMerican Games in Puerto Rico. I was one step closer to my Olympic dream. The came disaster; the 1980 Olympic boycott. Although Canada decided to hold an Olympic Team tryout (and I qualified), I remember thinking that it was a futile exercise. Most of my friends at the elite level were tired and disappointed. Some had even left the sport. I too considered quitting.

My father encouraged me to focus on a college scholarship instead. At the University of Florida, I became a six-time All-American and placed third in the all-around at the 1985 NCAA Championships/ Although I eventually left the sport on my own terms, I was able to savor my success.

Gymnastics has given me the opportunity to travel all over the world and make many new friends.It’s also allowed me to turn gymnastics into a job, working as a commentator, first for CBC and CTV, and then, for 20 years, at NBC Sports. But perhaps most importantly, it’s given me the chance to open my own gymnastics club … For the last 20 years there I’ve taught what I’ve learned, and in turn, I have learned new things from the budding gymnasts who participate in our programs.

This is an updated version of The Gymnastics Book with updated profiles of gymnasts. If you’re just trying out gymnastics for the first time, this book is for you. If you’re working on your first one-handed cartwheel or round off, then this book is for you, too! We’ve added tips, stories and memories from a few experienced competitive gymnasts, so you can read about what makes them tick and the secrets to their success.

I am delighted to take you on a fun, exciting journey into the world of gymnastics. Welcome!”

– Elfi Schlegel


Some samples skills and exercises featured in this book:





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