Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation
Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation (CIGF) is the official governing body for Gymnastics in Cook Islands.
COOK ISLANDS GYMNASTICS FEDERATION – THE STORY SO FAR….
There is quite a history of Gymnastics participation in the Cook Islands – in fact, Hugh and Graham Roberts, Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC) President and Secretary General, both tell of their memories of participating in the sport as children. Gymnastics was previously part of the school curriculum in the Cook Islands.
In 2003 Gymsports New Zealand, with support and funding from Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC), sent Development Officer Tas Evans to Rarotonga to run workshops, courses and work with local parents and children. With very little equipment, a club was established at the Titikaveka Community Hall using mattresses in place of gym mats. A Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation was formed and first became an International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) member in 2004. FIG membership lapsed from 2008 until being reinstated in 2016.
In October 2015, the FIG funded Oceania Development Plan enabled Gymnastics New Zealand’s (GNZ) Tas Evans to return to Cook Islands, along with Gymnastics Australia’s (GA) Brooke Kneebush Oceania Gymnastics Development Manager. Development activities included coach education, children’s “Come & Try” sessions, school student sessions and meetings with the Ministry of Education.
Subsequent visits in April and October 2016 culminated in the Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation’s (CIGF) first competition. Twenty-three children participated thanks to the collaborative effort of volunteers and coaches. Gymnastics Australia Judge Training was provided to parents and teachers, whilst club coaches were mentored to conduct this and future competitions.
In March 2016 an Australian Government Direct Aid Program (DAP) Grant was awarded to CIGF for equipment to conduct activities in local schools, villages and clubs. Over NZ $6,000 in new gymnastics equipment was purchased and shipped to the Cook Islands including mats, soft shapes and hand apparatus.
In 2017 CIGF, with the support of CISNOC funding are working with the Cook Islands Ministry of Educationconducting a GymSchools program. GymSchools provides fundamental movement activities for students and includes educating teachers, building their capacity to deliver such Programs utilising lesson plans and activity cards. The goal is to extend this education to teachers on the outer islands as well.
In 2018, with funding from the Ministry of Health, Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation staged a “Healthy Living” School Holiday Program. The activities were so successful that this will become an annual event on the calendar, with plans to take it to an outer island in 2019. 2018 also saw the GymSchools program extended to Secondary School students participating in FreeG (a pathway to Parkour) and the long awaited introduction of KinderGym. Now Cook Islanders of all ages can participate in gymnastics.
With a population of just over 20,000 spread across 15 islands and a vast area, the CIGF’s coaches, officials and gymnasts face some challenges in developing their sport. But what they lack in numbers, they make up for in passion and they been fortunate to have support from afar, including clubs from Australia and New Zealand donating leotards which are almost impossible to buy in the islands. The Cook Islanders are also adept at using that crucial gymnastics skill of flexibility when the need arises. The outdoors may not be the traditional location for gymnastics classes, but with limited venue availability, at times improvisation and versatility are the name of the game. And who could think of a better place to do gymnastics, than in the shade of palm trees by the sea shore?