Rope jumpers leaped into World championships

Penticton's Cathy and Thomas Cunningham competed in Portugal, Sweden.

PENTICTON'S THOMAS CUNNINGHAM of the Black Widow Rope Spinners competed in the World Jump Rope competition in Portugal this past summer

PENTICTON'S THOMAS CUNNINGHAM of the Black Widow Rope Spinners competed in the World Jump Rope competition in Portugal this past summer

Cathy and Thomas Cunningham have leapt onto the international stage with their jump ropes.

The members of Penticton’s Black Widow Rope Spinners competed in Portugal and Sweden this past summer, both returning with medals.

Cathy, coach of the Black Widow Rope Spinners, was the oldest jumper and earned two bronze, which was exciting for her because it was also her debut in a World Jump Rope championship. She wasn’t sure if she would compete at Braga’s University De Minho Sports Complex.

“The level of the world jump rope competition is very high,” said Cunningham, who has been competing for six or seven years and holds some provincial records. “It’s known to unify … to include as many people as it can. I thought I would wait. If it was a comfortable environment, that I would get out there and compete. When I did and when I won the medals that was icing on the cake.

“I did better than I thought I was going to do,” she continued. “I was very nervous to get out on the floor. I knew I wasn’t going to do really well compared to the others. I had the nerve to get out there. Not all of them did all the events. That’s what saved me.”

Cunningham was among five females in the 30-plus category to compete, though she was still older than the rest of the field by at least 25 years. Cunningham earned bronze in a three minute speed event and single rope freestyle. She described the championship as track meet style allowing athletes to choose the events to compete in.

“I focused more on the creative aspect,” she said. “In freestyle, a lot of older jumpers don’t go into. It’s scary to be out there.”

The championship in Braga had athletes representing 26 countries. Cunningham qualified through her club. Cunningham and her son were the lone B.C. athletes competing.

The experience of competing in Portugal was exciting as it opened her up to see different styles of judging and jumpers.

“It’s a great group of people, a great group of athletes,” she said. “Everyone is very friendly.”

Thomas had a lot of fun in Portugal, which he said was a more social event compared to the intense environment in Sweden. Thomas met several athletes, which helped break the ice in Sweden.

“It was exciting and I did very well in Portugal. I’m very pleased with how the competition went,” said Thomas, who earned silver for his freestyle and bronze in his three-minute speed (19 to 22 age group).

His performance in the freestyle also put him fifth overall for the whole competition in both genders.

“That’s pretty good,” he said. “I was very excited. It made me sort of feel like I should be there.”

In previous years he didn’t perform as well and Thomas questioned whether it was worth going. It gave him the confidence knowing he can do it.

Thomas was impressed by the set up in Portugal. The jumpers performed alone on a floor with stage lights and music.

“They make a big deal out of it,” he said. “I felt kind of sick with nervousness the day before. You get to see the best of the best at that part of the competition.”

The Federation Internationale de sauté a la Corde (FISAC) World Rope Skipping Championship in Malmo, Sweden July 24 to Aug.2 was more difficult. Thomas said his routine was better suited for Portugal, but Thomas said the experience pushed him to get better in the next year or two. While there, Thomas said he performed better in his two speed events because he knew he had to go a bit harder.

“I went as hard as I could in Portugal, but having all those world records being broken in Sweden made you feel like OK, I really have to go, I really have to push,” he said.

Thomas learned from watching the competitors — the tricks and sequences they did.

“Sometimes if you don’t learn it early enough, it doesn’t stick as well,” said Thomas, who is studying Kinesiology with a focus on active health and rehabilitation.”I am still trying to pick up on techniques.”

READ MORE: Penticton man skips into world stage

The Black Widow Rope Spinners have four members who plan to compete in the World Jump Rope championship in Orlando, Fla., next year. They are both Cunningham’s, and Cathy will coach, as well as Piper Wiltse, Izzy Landry and Gisela Kilian.