BRIDGEWATER – Twin brothers Carter and Riley Bryk, even though they are only 17, have been tumbling, spinning and flying through the air for a lot of years.
The gymnasts made the move to town from Ontario with their mother (who is making her return) this past summer will be representing their new province at the Canada Winter Games being held Feb. 18 to March 5 in Prince Edward Island.
The pair have been in gymnastics for about 12 years and are now excited to represent their new province.
"I think it's a great honour and I think it's going to be a great experience to be around people who are also devoting time to their sport," commented Carter.
The twins are in Grade 12 at Park View Education Centre and train at the Halifax's Alta Gymnastics Club four times a week. They also work at Subway when they are not at school or training.
"They're pretty incredible, pretty amazing. I've watched them since they were five. It's been quite a journey," said mom, Christine. "I'm pretty tough on them and they have high standards at home. They have to do chores, homework and have a job before they get to the gym. So they have to manage their time. We kind of function as a well-oiled team and I expect them to have integrity, to be accountable and be good people."
The Bryk family is an athletic one to say the least, the twins have an older sister who was in gymnastics and an older brother who is a runner, just like their mother.
They took part in the tryouts which included two competitions Dec. 4 and 11. They were judged in both and the top six gymnasts (based on average) made the team.
"You had to show up and compete well for two competitions," said Riley. "You couldn't do well just on one, you had to be consistent which really shows the team that it may have been a fluke. This way everyone knows you can rely on each other We know that Carter and Riley and all the others are really the best for Nova Scotia to send."
Were they surprised at their selection?
"We were very confident in our training and coming from Ontario, which is well known for it's gymnastics, I felt we had a good chance of making the team," said Carter. "I know coming from Ontario wouldn't guarantee us a spot, but I know we both work really hard to push for that spot and we are fierce competitors."
The duo is no stranger to high level competitions. While in Ontario, they competed in several provincial competitions, and they have represented the province during various tours out west and in eastern competitions.
Their latest and largest competition to date was their first national championships held last May in Richmond, B.C. and they showed well.
Riley placed 10th overall in the 16-18 age division.
Carter placed 12th overall in the country.
Riley explained that the event was held over two days. During the first day, all of the athletes perform all six disciplines – floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and the horizontal bars.
The top seven overall scorers move on to the second day of the event and compete for supremacy on each of the disciplines.
Riley made the parallel bars final and finished second overall in the country. He also finished fourth on the high bar.
Carter finished eighth overall in the high bar and parallel bars.
COMPETING AS TWINS
Competing with a brother, especially a twin, can be a massive positive. Carter and Riley are about the same height, weight and build and skill level. They also spend all of their time together whether it's training, work, travelling, school and downtime.
Just about the only time they are not together is when they have separate shifts at work, or at night, but that hasn't bothered them.
"I really am grateful that I am doing it with my brother, especially my twin, because we spend so much of the day together," said Carter. "I don't know how I'm not tired of him."
Riley piped up, "I don't know how."
Carter continued, "We push each other all the time. We know each other so well and because we are so similar in body type I can say when I do a certain skill that I feel this way, or you have to do this with your body or this with your leg to be more comfortable or easier and know that it will affect the the other in the same way. It's pretty special."
He adds that it's good to have that constant support and be with someone you know so well, someone that will pick you up and encourage you.
They also make the same teams each year as well while they were competing in Ontario, even the same touring team twice in the same year.
The Bryks have been involved in specialized athletic programming for many years, which they have qualified to be a part of. In Ontario, they were students at a school that specifically dealt with high performance athletes. They have been doing juggling school and training since about Grade 3.
At Park View Education Centre, they are part of what is called the Ignite program offered through the Canadian Sport Institute Atlantic. In this case, the teachers work with the program to deliver adjusted programming for the athletes; same subjects, but delivered in a more concentrated form.
"I really enjoy what it teaches you and how every skill you learn, both mentally and physically, you can apply it to every single aspect of life," said Carter. "You also get to learn more about yourself and what you can handle, how to fall and how to get back up. It also teaches you that hard work pays off and you get out of it, what you put into it."
Riley agreed for the most part and added...
"It teaches you devotion, dedication and discipline, how to adapt and how to move on from a bad day or a bad routine," he said.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Both athlete said they will approach the Canada Games competition like they would any other event, by remaining cool, calm, collected, focused and have fun.
"You have to be confident in yourself. You have to go into every competition with the attitude that I'm here to do what I do. I've done all these skills a thousand times. I've done this routine a thousand times, I just have to go and show it," the two synced, adding you have to approach it just like it's another day at the gym."
Carter's favourite discipline is competing on the high bar, but also working on the pommel horse, for which he is one of the best in Canada
Riley, meanwhile says he is pretty strong, but enjoys the high bar as well.
"Swinging around, letting go and catching back on," he said is pretty cool.
They both said that training and learning more in general is a favourite.
"I really enjoy just going to the gym no matter what and being in that environment filled with people who are like me who are devoting their time and themselves to something bigger," said Carter. "I enjoy being around those people and also seeing the progress that I am making in my own gymnastics journey and training. It's all about the process of becoming the best."
Both athletes are pushing themselves to be the best they can be physically and mentally.
To push themselves even more they work at making connections, meeting with high performance coaches and athletes, such as three-time Olympian Ellie Black who has been an inspiration for the Bryks. She also trains out of the Alta Gymnastics Club and she is very approachable they said.
The twins continue to push towards their goal of earning a spot on the Canadian national team.
After graduating high school, they are hoping to take a year off from their schooling to focus on training and competing.