Skipping onto the world stage

Oakville Beaver - July 21st 2006

A trio of Oakville girls is set to skip its way onto the world stage this weekend.
Brittany Gillies and her cousins, twin sisters Samantha and Jaclyn Santamaria, are competing in the International Rope Skipping Federation World and Maple Leaf International Championships that officially began yesterday (Thursday) at Humber College in Toronto. This is the first time Canada has been chosen to host the event, which will feature approximately 800 athletes from 14 countries.

It's also the first international rope skipping competition for the three local teens, all members of the Brampton Acro Ropers, though all are armed with plenty of big-meet experience. Gillies and Jaclyn Santamaria each won masters (individual) titles at the national championships earlier this year, also helping their Rope Illusions squad to a second-place finish in team competition. Samantha, meanwhile, was part of the U Can't D-feet Us team that finished third.

The 14-year-olds have not set lofty expectations for the world championships, cognizant of the fact they've already accomplished a lot this season.

"I'm really happy to qualify," said Gillies, who will join Jaclyn in the team competition at worlds and will also compete individually in the Maple Leaf masters division (a younger age group, since worlds is for those 15-and-older). "I'm hoping for top 10 or something (in the Maple Leaf)."

Samantha laughingly added, "Anything better than last. We don't expect first or second -- we're there for fun and hopefully top 20."

Samantha will participate in team competition with U Can't D-feet Us, as will Jaclyn with Rope Illusions. Additionally, Jaclyn will compete individually in masters action despite being a year younger than the minimum age.

"I want to do my best, but it's really more for the experience since this is my first time," she said. "I have other years hopefully to qualify."

Individual rope skipping features four different events: 30-second speed, three-minute endurance, power triple-unders and freestyle. The 30-second speed and three-minute endurance events simply measure the number of times the athlete can jump the rope in the allotted time, while power triple-unders awards the athlete for each time they clear the rope three times in a single jump. Freestyle is a mixture of the three different elements (speed, endurance and strength), with an overall title awarded to the athlete with the best aggregate score.

In team competition, squads participate in eight different events including speed relay, power relay, single freestyle and pairs freestyle. The routines are choreographed, synchronized and feature a wide array of artistic elements.

Gillies was the first of the three to skip rope competitively, with the Santamaria sisters following suit several years later. Their interest in rope skipping was sparked during their days at St. Andrew School by then-physical education teacher John Shaw.

"This sport is a sport you fall in love with," said Nadia Gillies, Brittany's mother. "There's probably no career in it but there's a lot of fun stuff."

The girls have done a number of demonstrations over the years, appearing on YTV as well as CityTV's Breakfast Television, largely in an effort to promote rope skipping in Canada. Following the world championships, the three Holy Trinity students will head to Virginia two days later for the Junior Olympics.