Lure of the rings motivates Ikeda

Abbotsford gymnast Ken Ikeda is aiming to help the Canadian men's gymnastics squad qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

  • Dec. 22, 2011 10:00 a.m.

Abbotsford’s Ken Ikeda is aiming to help Canada’s men’s gymnastics team qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. He and his teammates must finish in the top four out of eight nations during a second-stage trial meet on Jan. 10.

The four-year gap between Summer Olympics is often referred to as a cycle, and from Ken Ikeda’s perspective, it feels like that cycle is being pedaled by Lance Armstrong.

The Abbotsford gymnast says it seems like just yesterday that he was in Beijing, serving as the first alternate with the Canadian men’s gymnastics squad at the ‘08 Summer Games.

As it stands, he’s just weeks away from the culmination of another drive to qualify a full team for the 2012 Games, which open in late July in London, England.

“It’s kind of crept up really fast,” Ikeda noted with a chuckle. “I think everybody on the team feels that way.

“I think because we’ve been doing a lot of prep and training camps, everything just flew by. We didn’t have a lot of distractions.”

Back in October, Ikeda helped Canada to a 12th-place team finish at the World Championships. The top eight nations automatically qualified for the Olympics, while the next eight must survive a second-stage qualifier on Jan. 10 in London. Canada will be joined by France, Great Britain, Spain, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Italy and Belarus at that meet, and the top four nations will move on to the Olympics.

Given that the Canadian men finished 12th at Worlds, it would seem they’re right on the bubble for an Olympic berth. But Ikeda is confident in his team’s ability to come through in the clutch.

“Out of those eight teams, we’re all pretty close,” he acknowledged. “Basically, anything can happen.

“But as long as we go through our routines the way we know we can do them, we’ll be fine.”

The London Games would represent Ikeda’s third Olympics – he competed in Athens in ‘04, before serving as an alternate in ‘08.

After the Beijing Games, Ikeda was pretty sure that his gymnastics career wouldn’t extend past 2010, but that retirement timetable soon went out the window. Longtime stalwarts Kyle Shewfelt, David Kikuchi, Grant Golding and Adam Wong retired after Beijing, and Ikeda – who specializes in the pommel horse and parallel bar events – felt he couldn’t leave the team in the lurch.

At age 29, Ikeda is the elder statesman of the Canadian squad, but he’s still a pivotal contributor – he was Canada’s top finisher on the p-bars (22nd) and the pommel (24th) at the 2011 Worlds.

Should Canada qualify for the Olympics, Ikeda believes he’s got a shot at making an individual final in one or both of his two favourite events. During the Olympic qualification drive, he’s scaled back the degree of difficulty in his routines in order to help the team – sacrificing higher start values in favour of more consistent scoring. Once the trial meet is over, the plan would be to boost his start values.

“Once I do that, I should be able to compete with the top guys in the world,” he said. “It’s definitely doable, because I have a lot of skills I can put into those routines.”

In addition to his own athletic exploits, Ikeda also has a burgeoning coaching career on the go. He oversees a group of four elite male gymnasts between the ages of 12 and 16 at Abbotsford’s Twisters Gymnastics Club, and is also involved with the B.C. provincial program.

“I’ve always been the athlete, so it’s nice to see both sides of it,” he noted.

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