You might only find a few of Team Manitoba's coaches at this year’s Canada Winter Games with more experience than Robert Persechino.
Persechino is making his seventh appearance as part of the coaching staff for Team Manitoba’s Canada Games gymnastics team. His first games were in Grand Prairie, Alberta in 1995.
“The athletes are the inspiration behind the whole thing,” said Persechino, 58. “They’re working hard and they want this and I’m here for them.”
Persechino moved to Winnipeg in 1991 after getting involved with the sport while he was in school.
“When I entered college in Montreal, there was a gymnasium there and there was gymnastic equipment. We were setting things up and trying stuff without any coach,” he said.
One of the gymnasts asked him if he’d like to coach and he agreed.
“Not having a coach, and then me starting to coach, I saw a difference,” Persechino said. “In this sport you need a coach, in any sport you need a coach.”
He says gymnasts must have a diverse skill set.
“You need everything. You need strength, you need power, you need flexibility, you need endurance, you need special awareness…it’s the whole package.”
This year he’s coaching two girls on the Manitoba gymnastics team, including 15-year-old Alexis Gillespie.
“I’ve really grown a connection with Robert and there’s a big amount of trust with him,” she said. “He’s kind of helped me pick myself up through training or competitions that haven’t gone the way I had planned.”
Persechino has been her coach since she was seven years old. She said she’s going to lean on his vast Canada Games experience.
“This is my first Canada Games, so knowing that he’s had seven makes me feel pretty comfortable.”
Persechino said he doesn’t like to talk about medals but he thinks the team will be strong. He describes himself as a teacher.
“I’m there for the athlete. It’s about the athlete… it’s not about me. Some kind of teacher, life teaching, and using gymnastics as teaching for life skills, something like that.”
The gymnastics competition begins on Sunday in Red Deer.