Experience of a lifetime for Cayman gymnasts

Sami Peene (left) and Raegan Rutty (right) competed at the XXI Commonwealth Games. Story and photos by Ben Meade.

A pair of 16-year-old gymnasts who represented the Cayman Islands at the recently concluded XXI Commonwealth Games in Australia have returned home describing their first senior international competition as an amazing experience.

Raegan Rutty and Sami Peene finished down the standings in qualifying at the Coomera Indoor Sports Arena. Both said they did not perform as well as they wanted to but took the experience in stride.

While others had their eyes on medals, the Cayman duo put things into perspective.

“Just seeing all the cameras and everything was nerve-racking, but it was just amazing to have those experiences and moments like you see on TV where the cameras are in the girl’s face and you’re like ‘oh, I wonder what it’s like to have that’ and to have that actually happen was quite amazing,” Rutty told CaymanSportsBuzz.com.

She said it was an accomplishment “to see all the work that you have done and how far you’ve come and the big stages that we’re starting to compete on with all the big names.”

Meantime, Peene described competing at the Commonwealth Games against some of the top gymnasts in the world as “probably the best experience I’ve had in my life”.

She added it was almost unfathomable to being in the athletes’ village with 6,000 athletes from countries around the world, some of them the very best in their sport.

About the competition, Rutty, who trains predominantly in Texas, said: “Vault and floor went really well. I was happy with those scores and performances but bars and beam, I know those are not my best but I know that I’m not going to let that stop me from going to different meets and trying hard to perfect my routines.”

Peene took away valuable learning experiences from the biggest meet of her life.  “It didn’t go as well as I had hoped but I think it was all the mindset because one thing threw me off and I wasn’t in the right head space for the rest of the meet and I think I can definitely learn from that – learn to snap out of it and move on to the next event.”

She added they are better off as gymnasts now, having competed at such a major event. “It’s taken our competition to the next level and broadened our horizons,” said Peene.

Rutty said while they did not do as well as they wanted, “it shows us how far we can grow and how much better we can become.”

With their experience Down Under, they both said they hope the younger gymnasts in the Cayman Islands can use it as motivation to strive to make it on the world stage.

Up next for Rutty is the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia from 19 July to 3 August, and the Pan American Gymnastics Championships later this year. Meantime, Peene said she is taking it meet-by-meet as she continues to recover from a recent injury.

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