Gymnastics: Scott Nabata a wily veteran

17-year-old KGTC athlete to go up against the best in Ottawa

At 17, Scott Nabata is one of the oldest athletes at the Kamloops Gymnastics/Trampoline Centre.

And yet he has spent much of the season feeling like a youngster again.

Nabata is off to his fifth straight Canadian championships next month in Ottawa. He will be competing in the senior national men's division, the top division in men's artistic gymnastics.

This means that Nabata, who is in Grade 12 at Sa-Hali secondary, is competing against the best of the best in Canada. He is - at least on a technical level - a boy amongst men.

"It's not too big of a jump," says Nabata, with a shrug. "Every event is definitely a lot harder, but it's weird just being with all the great guys who are so experienced and so much older.

"I feel like a young guy again."

Among the men Nabata has to compete against is Ken Ikeda, a former Olympian who is taking part in his 19th Canadian championships.

"I've been friends with him for a while, so I know his skill level," Nabata says of Ikeda. "But to compete against him, the thought of that hasn't sunk in yet."

To keep up with the likes of Ikeda means tougher routines for Nabata, who spent part of the winter training with the national team.

He has had a fantastic career so far, and is a mainstay on Team B.C. He went to his first Canadian championships in Hamilton in 2009, and also has competed nationally in Kamloops (2010), Charlottetown (2011) and in Regina last year.

As a junior in Regina, he finished second on the floor and fifth all-around. He likely would have improved on the all-around placing, but had to pull out of the rings and high bar events with an injured hand.

That's in the rearview mirror - Nabata knew he had to improve quickly this season, and has the bruises to show how much work he has put into that.

"I've fallen so many more times this year," he says, with a laugh. "It's probably been my worst year for falls, but it's all trial-and-error at this point."

He has had a "decent" competitive season so far, but a nagging wrist injury has him somewhat worried four weeks ahead of nationals. The wrist hasn't been feeling great for a while, but really bothers Nabata on the parallel bars, high bar, pommel horse and rings - essentially, two-thirds of the competition.

"I feel like I'm going to fight through it," he says. "This competition, if I do well, I get to go to Russia. I have one shot - might as well go for it. It's the end of the year."

There is something at stake here for Nabata.

A top-five result could qualify him for the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, from July 6-17. As he is planning to attend Thompson Rivers University in the fall, it would be a great way to kick off his post-secondary career.

"I feel like top-five is pretty realistic," Nabata says. "My difficulty, compared to last year, I've really bumped it up. I've been trying really hard, and it's all about hitting my routines now. If I hit my routines, I think I can get top-five."

Nabata isn't looking beyond nationals, but wants to take science classes at TRU in the fall. That way, he can continue to train at the KGTC under his longtime coach, Hisayoshi Takahashi, while moving forward.

"I'm going to do that for three more years, and see where I can go with (gymnastics)," Nabata says.

Chances are that Nabata will be back in this position in 2014, planning, working and training for a national championship.

But he can't wait to get to Ottawa, especially considering he will be joined by three other KGTC athletes - Emily Schmidt, Mario Bruno and Jean-Luc Larouche, all trampoline gymnasts.

With artistic and trampoline gymnasts training separately in the same space, there's some interaction between the sides, but not a lot.

"It's great," Nabata says. "I know a few of them, but we haven't really connected as a group, so I feel like this will join both sides of the gym together."

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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