The 14-year-old gymnast from La Ronge is excited to represent Team North in Sask. Winter Games for the 1st time
Mackenzie Boyer was only two years old when she took her first physical education class at La Ronge, Sask. Since then, she’s spent much of her time upside down.
Flips, handstands, tumbling – Mackenzie loves being on the mat.
“I remember being kind of self-taught from a young age and I remember doing my first backflip on the lawn in my backyard. That’s a good reminder,” Mackenzie said with a big smile on her face.
Now, at the age of 14, Mackenzie is competing in the Saskatchewan Winter Games for the first time. She is one of five members of the Prince Albert Aerials Club to participate.
On Monday, the team won the bronze medal and Mackenzie will compete alone on Tuesday.
It’s been a long journey to Regina for the La Ronge gymnast, but she’s no stranger to long drives. For years, Mackenzie’s parents drove her the five-hour round trip to Prince Albert for gym classes.
At first it was just her. But eventually she and a small group of girls made their way down on Saturday morning. They would get up at 6am to be in Prince Albert for gymnastics class by 9am
But that didn’t bother young Mackenzie.
“We usually stayed overnight that night, so we were always excited to get going in the morning.”
Mackenzie said tumbling was the first step she managed in class. But while she found gymnastics easy, Mackenzie was very shy.
“Thinking back when she was little, I didn’t realize how nervous she was about meeting people,” said Mackenzie’s mother and Prince Albert Aerials Club team manager, Audrey Boyer.
“I thought she was so excited and she was just absolutely petrified. She wanted to go to the gym, but she was afraid of people,” Audrey said.
Turns out, being on a gymnastics team really helped Mackenzie’s shyness.
“Now she has some of the best friends she will ever have in her life,” Audrey said.
Meanwhile, those trips to Prince Albert for gym classes with friends were beginning to change.
“Initially, a group of us drove on Saturday so we could share the driving. It was only once a week, but eventually the other kids dropped out,” Audrey said.
“But [Mackenzie] seemed interested and wanted to stick with it.”
Road to the Winter Games
As she got older, Mackenzie had more training and competitive opportunities, as well as gymnastics camps in places like Saskatoon. By 2018, Audrey said her Mackenzie family drove from La Ronge twice a week and eventually three times a week.
The mother-of-three said her community has thrived.
“Without our La Ronge family, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it. There were a lot of transient people at La Ronge, and not many of us have biological families there,” Audrey said.
“So we were only able to do this thanks to a lot of our friends who drove the others to their activities or invited them to sleep over when we got home late… Definitely a lot of community support to keep it going. “
Mackenzie has competed in Saskatchewan, Alberta and even Las Vegas. Audrey said gymnasts in the North had never been able to go to the Winter Games before because the clubs didn’t have gymnasts at that level. But years of hard work and riding to courses and competitions have changed that.
“I was like, wow, look at all this… how far has it come that we have a kid who can have this opportunity,” Audrey said. Today the family divides their time between La Ronge and Prince Albert.
As for Mackenzie, she’s looking forward to staying in the Regina Winter Games dorms with all the other kids. Mackenzie listens to 1990s rap to get herself going before the competition and keeps a lucky bracelet nearby given to her by friend and teammate Naomi Johns.
She’s particularly looking forward to wearing her Team North gear as she and Johns are the first gymnasts from La Ronge to ever compete in the Winter Games.
Mackenzie said she was very proud to represent the North.