As if reaching extraordinary achievements isn’t remarkable enough, doing it before turning 16 is even more remarkable. For Wānaka’s local girls, this is now their reality. The girls just returned from the 2019 New Zealand Gymnastics Championships, which were held in Auckland on October 2-5.
Bella Soper competed first, in the qualification all-around for step seven overs (14yrs and above). She said that she was “very happy with her performance”, finishing fifth overall out of 33 competitors, with top three placings on vault, floor and beam, qualifying her for these apparatus finals. Much to her delight, Soper pulled off her best beam of the season and took apparatus gold.
Next, Soper’s floor routine was a silver medal scorcher and made her “really proud [...] as my tumbling was better and it was a much cleaner routine”.
These achievements are a massive improvement considering last year Soper didn’t even make the top eight to qualify for finals, leaving her in the middle of the pack.
Soper said that her most fanatic supporters are ”my mum and dad, which drive me all over the country to competitions and Rae, my coach, who has put in so much effort to make me a better gymnast”.
Trampolinist, Jessica Penney took a national title with gold in synchronised trampoline, women aged 11/12 years, with partner Isla McLean from Christchurch. To make their performance even more incredible, the two young athletes did not have many opportunities to practise together before the competition. The pair only had two sessions together as Penney could only train on the weekends and McLean had other weekend sports commitments. Their first short session was used to gauge their jump height and then try to put a routine together, meanwhile, in the second they practised the timings. Not a very easy target when you can’t practice regularly together, therefore the girls did very well to pull this off.
Moreover, the competition within this age group is very tight. Besides the highly competitive environment, the girls acted with lovely comradery and there was supportiveness within the group. Besides being very focused, their ability to read and adjust easily to each other made them both succeed. Penney’s parents said “we are extremely proud of the way she can compete in such a public arena, improve skills and consistently achieve personal bests”.
Deia Carson-Wolfe returned home proudly with a silver and bronze medal. She placed second in the double mini tramp 15/16 age group event and third in the trampoline 15/16 age event. Carson-Wolfe said that she feels “highly satisfied with my results”. Plus, she has already qualified for the 2020 New Zealand Gymnastics Championships, which she plans to attend and hopefully come home with even more medals and good memories. Rae Patterson and Aspiring Gymsports were also Carson-Wolfe’s supporters, giving her the chance to train at their facility and to use their equipment. With no opportunity to train in Wānaka, she has to travel to Invercargill or Christchurch most weekends for appropriate training. Deia stated “the most challenging part of my last competition was the lack of exercising and having to travel at least three and a half hours and often five-and-a-half hours just for training on the weekends”. She concluded, “the best thing about trampolining is that it is so much fun andI get to meet new people from all over New Zealand”.