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Michelle Conway

Michelle's Competitive Results
1996 Canadian Gymnastics Championships: Novice - 2nd AA, 1st FX, 2nd UB, 5th VT
1997 Canadian Gymnastics Championships,: Junior - 7th AA, 1st FX
1997 Elite Canada: 6th AA, 3rd BB, 2nd FX
1997 International Gymnix: Junior - 7th AA, 1st FX
1998 Bluewater International: 7th AA, 2nd FX, 4th BB
1998 Canadian Championships: 11th AA, 3rd BB, 5th FX
1998 Coupe de la Cite des Papes: Junior - 21st AA
1998 Elite Canada: 2nd AA, 1st FX, 3rd BB, 4th UB
1998 Wild Rose International: 3rd AA
1998 World Youth Games
1999 American Cup: 8th AA
1999 Bluewater International: 6th AA, 3rd UB, BB, FX
1999 Canada vs. USA Challenge: 1st TM, (4th AA), 2nd FX
1999 Pan American Games: 1st TM, 2nd AA, 2nd FX
1999 World Championships: 10th TM, 5th UB TM, 57th AA qualification
2000 FRA-GER-CAN-GBR TM Challenge: 3rd TM, 2nd UB
2000 Canadian Championships: 3rd AA, 2nd FX, 3rd VT and BB, 4th UB
2000 Olympic Trials: 4th AA
2000 Olympic Games: 9th TM , 13th FX, 45th UB, 50th VT
2001 Gymnix International
2001 Moscow Stars: 4th FX
2001 Friendship Classic: 5th AA (tie)
Michelle in attendance
at the 2001 Spring Cup

At 16, Michelle Conway was the second youngest of Canada's 2000 Olympians, yet she used her considerable international experience and some old-fashioned guts to be one of the team's unsung heroes. Just days before the start of the competition, Conway had torn the meniscus in her left knee while training a one-and-a-half twisting Yurchenko, placing her competitive status in jeopardy. She was not to be denied, however, and when teammate Emilie Fournier sustained a tibial fracture during podium training, Conway stepped up and contributed three nearly flawless exercises towards Canada's impressive 9th-place team total.

Most remarkable was an inspired floor routine on an injured knee: with Canada having already having to count Lise Leveille's 8.587, Conway, who has been lauded the world over for her passionate, no-holds-barred style on floor, handled the difficult mat that claimed so many athletes in Sydney. She scored a 9.612, placing her among the alternates for the floor exercise final.

Finishing her competition on vault, Conway's Olympic experience culminated with a perfectly stuck Hristakieva. Scott Russell, the CBC commentator for women's gymnastics in Sydney, was amazed by Conway's toughness, exclaiming to the television audience back home in Canada that Conway's effort was "one of the greatest performances I've seen in a long time in this sport". Conway returned home after the Sydney Games, and eventually had surgery to repair her knee to give her the chance to continue her elite career for another season before heading off to join teammate Yvonne Tousek at UCLA in 2001.

Leading up to the Olympics, Conway had lived what could be considered a charmed life in women's gymnastics. A child prodigy, she moved up to the senior ranks early, placing an impressive sixth at the 1997 Elite Canada at the tender age of 14. The first half of 1998 was less kind to Conway, however, for her debut at Senior Nationals was marred by errors caused by a knee injury sustained at the Wild Rose meet in Edmonton earlier in the year. Her surprising 2nd place finish at the Wild Rose, behind Russia's future Olympic champion, Elena Zamolodchikova, had given Conway hopes for a top finish at nationals, but the pain and lack of training time resulted in a disappointing 11th place finish. Undaunted, she bounced back at the end of the year with a remarkable 2nd place effort at the Elite Canada, ceding victory to a much more experienced Tousek.

As a result of Conway's high national ranking at the end of 1998, she was selected to a number of prestigious competition squads in the 1999 season. First came the USA vs. Canada, a meet hosted by her own Sport Seneca gymnastic club. Seneca has a long history of producing outstanding gymnasts, largely because of their unique program combining sports with academics. Athletes who train at the club are admitted to a special school program that allows for the rigors of training and competition without compromising academic integrity. Sport Seneca's head coaches, Carol Angela Orchard and Brian McVey, had considered leaving coaching after years of dedication, but it was Conway's obvious talents as a youngster that persuaded them to continue.

Michelle competing in the
2000 Olympic Trials

Just weeks after Canada's victory at the USA vs. Canada, Conway was selected to compete at the Pan American Games. There, she stepped out of the shadows of her more famous teammates, first by sticking a clutch beam routine to clinch the team gold medal, and later by finishing second in the all-around behind American Morgan White. Notably, Conway had the nerve to throw her 1 twisting Yurchenko for the first time ever in competition with her medal placing on the line. Despite some minor execution deductions, she stood it up confidently to secure the silver. Conway then added to her impressive medal haul with a silver on the floor exercise, bringing Canada's total medal count in women's gymnastics to a remarkable seven.

At the world championships later that year, Conway helped the Canadian team secure a berth in the Sydney Olympics with their 10th place finish. Unfortunately, a shaky beam routine, coupled with judging that was inexplicably strict on her Start Value (8.9!), kept Conway out of the all-around final.

The year 2000 resulted in the fulfillment of Conway's Olympic dream, but a series of injuries made the road to the Games a bumpy one. After being unable to participate in the Pacific Alliance Championships in April (she traveled to a duel meet with Great Britain instead), Conway's chance to compete at the Gymnastic Challenge 2000 was dashed by an ankle injury. Even as late as the Olympic Trials in July, Conway still had her ankle taped and was unable to complete full tumbling.

Michelle competing in the
2000 Olympic Trials

At the Trials, Conway's consistent performance (one beam fall over the two days of competition) was good enough for fourth place overall, but it was not enough to gain automatic selection to the Olympic team (only the top two athletes gained such a right). After a meeting of the selection committee, however, Conway's experience and ability were considered indispensable to the team, and she was named to the Canadian Olympic team that would travel to Sydney. A born performer, Conway is known for her exceptional style and originality. On the balance beam, she performs an incredibly difficult illusion with a full turn as well as a risky tour jete with a half twist (a full 360 degree turn from the time her feet leave the beam). On the floor exercise, she has shown a variety of tumbling and dance elements, including (during various stages of her career) a tucked front full through to 2 twist punch front, a 1 twist to double back, and a tough double illusion as part of her dance.

With the arrival of the 2001 season, Conway is now faced with a difficult choice: train to represent Canada one last time at the upcoming world championships in Ghent, Belgium, or simply work to maintain her physical condition and skill level so that she can join the top-ranked UCLA gymnastics team in the fall. Despite not being completely recovered from her knee injuries of the past year, Conway has already begun to re-establish herself on the international scene, first with a victory against a tough field at the 2001 Gymnix International, and more recently with a 5th place showing (despite two errors) at the well-attended Friendship Cup in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

Michelle competing in the
2001 Gymnix International

Interestingly, the new 2001-2008 Code of Points has actually given Conway an edge on what was traditionally one of her weaker events, the balance beam. With only minor adjustments, including a new punch front-back tuck combination and a difficult switch leap to side somi, Conway is capable of a full 10.0 Start Value on beam, a feat that is exceedingly rare this early in the competitive season. As she works to upgrade her other events, most importantly her exercise on the uneven bars where she lacks the now-required same-bar release element, Conway will continue to evaluate her goals and priorities in her final year on the Canadian national team.

When she is not training 30 hours per week, Conway devotes her energies to her church at the Salvation Army Agincourt Temple. Her faith plays a major role in her views on life and competition. "I don't pray for God to help me win...I pray for Him to help me be strong," Conway told the CBC prior to the Olympic Games. "I pray to have fun and do my best, and I pray to be strong, because I know I can do it."

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