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A uniquely-talented Mountie
Champion teaches baton twirling in Fort Smith

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 10, 2014

A Mountie in Fort Smith has a very special sporting talent, and she is sharing it with the community.

NNSL photo/graphic

Const. Sheryl Raymond Fort Smith RCMP Baton twirler - Photo by James Johnson

That talent, believe it or not, is baton twirling.

However, Const. Sheryl Raymond is not your average twirler. She is actually a world champion, having won gold for Canada in team competition.

"It's just something that I feel I have to offer a community," she said. "As a police officer especially, it's great for the kids to see me in a different role wearing a different hat, so to speak. They see me out in the community as a police officer, but then also as a normal person, too, and an instructor."

The constable, who arrived in Fort Smith in September, said it is a good way to integrate into a community, although she noted some people are surprised when they find out she is a baton twirler.

Raymond participated in nine world championships between 1987 and 1995, travelling to many countries to represent Canada in individual, pair's and team competitions.

In 1991, she was among nine twirlers who won a gold medal in the team competition.

"Still to this day we are the only team from Canada that's ever won a gold medal in the team event," she said. "It was never done before us and never done since."

She also won a silver medal with her sister in the pair's event, and placed as high as fourth in the individual category.

Raymond began offering weekly lessons at the Rec Centre Jan. 16, and that has attracted 20 students in two age categories - four-to-six-year-olds and seven-to-12-year-olds.

"There's been a lot of interest and I think it will grow from there now, with word of mouth and kids talking about it at school," she said, adding she has been very happy with the turnout.

One of the young people learning how to twirl a baton is 11-year-old Victoria Engele, who had never tried the sport before.

"I thought that it would be very cool, and it is," she said. "It's amazing."

Engele said she tried baton twirling because it is a good opportunity to try something new.

"Of course, I didn't know how to do it at all at first and now I'm getting better than I was when I started," said the Grade 6 student at Joseph Burr Tyrrell School.

Engele said she wants to learn how to do lots of spins and throws.

Right now, all the participants in the classes are girls, but Raymond said baton twirling is also a good activity for boys. In fact, she noted some of the most talented baton twirlers in the world are men.

The first 10 introductory classes will run until March 20.

"I absolutely will be continuing it," Raymond said, explaining there will be another 10 weeks of classes and then the interest of the community will be evaluated to determine if lessons will be offered on a more permanent basis.

Raymond, who is from Regina, Sask., started baton twirling at the age of four.

"It's always been a part of my life and, even when I joined the RCMP, I still continued to teach wherever I was posted," she said, noting she served in Saskatchewan before being transferred to Fort Smith.

The 39-year-old has been a member of the RCMP for 10 years, and before that she taught fitness for five years at the force's training academy in Regina.

Raymond was helped by Branch 239 of the Royal Canadian Legion, which provided almost $700 to buy 32 batons.

She said the Legion's generous donation made it possible to offer the lessons.

Now that the lessons have begun, the youngsters are learning how to handle the baton and basic twirls.

"You need to have that base of common moves and from there you keep building on those moves to the harder stuff," Raymond said. "Baton is totally brand-new to the people here."

She noted the young people are doing very well and loving the sport. "And that's the most important thing to me."

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