I had my first competition of the year and I got a bronze and a silver medal!!
Stressfully so, Emelia’s entire Gymnastics season came down to two competitions, in the same month, three weeks apart. It’s a heck of a way to end your career in the sport—especially when your goal when you started Gymnastics was to reach Level 6 and to go out on a high note. Goal number one was crossed off when she was placed at Level 6 Gold Xcel at the start of the training season. With that out of the way nearly nine months ago, Emelia only had the going out on a high note left to take a run at. As mentioned unfortunately she had to wait almost an entire training season to get the first competition under her belt. And like it or not, no matter how she did on that one, she only had three weeks until her next right after that, to build in any revisions and fine tune before the last competition of her career.
This weekend we were off to Whitby for that first competition. It’s not Emelia’s favourite location as she’s found it a challenging gym to do her best in, and she hadn’t had her best results there in the past. The good news was her flight wasn’t until 4pm on Saturday which meant we didn’t have get a hotel the night before and Emelia could sleep in her own bed which suited her more than fine. We were able to sneak in a trip to Ikea ahead to take her mind off the competition. We got up Saturday, got some breakfast and were off shortly thereafter to get in some shopping for more things for Emelia’s room. She had spending money from Christmas that she’d been saving for this moment and she managed to pick up the desk and chair that she wanted for her to do makeup and homework at. She was delighted.
And with that the focus shifted to the competition. With Emelia battling the wear-and-tear from this season (knee, back and ankle pain), we were kind of concerned for her ability to perform. We got her in some extra visits with her physio ahead and did as much modifying her last week to preserve what we could on her body. But, in typical Emelia fashion, aside from the visible knee brace, once the competition began you would have had no idea what she had been battling in the last few weeks. Sure there was some shakiness to some areas of her performance – especially in Floor which she started on in which there was an issue with the sound where she only got one side of the stereo audio and you could see it threw her off.
The next event was Vault and a usual consistent solid score for her. Sadly her best run was in the practice and in the two that counted she didn’t get the best we’ve seen from her. Usually a couple of events not going her way and that is enough to set her off and gets in her head. When I saw her on the sidelines of Vault I told her to make the most of this moment, to have fun and remember why she is doing this (because she loves Gymnastics). And from that moment forward we saw her being a ham with her teammates between their performances. She was making faces, dancing funny and just generally being a clown. She went out on Beam and while she didn’t have her best performance that we’ve seen she managed to snag a Bronze and didn’t fall off where others did. And then Uneven Bars – usually her nemesis – we saw her put down one of her better performances of the season and she ended with a Silver to show for it!
We were so proud to see her turn it around after the adversity of the sound equipment messing up her rhythm on Floor and then she not getting her best runs in on Vault when it counted. She ended 4th in the All-Around and as I shared with her 1.15 pts more would and she would have taken Gold in the All-Around. She battled hard and what I was most impressed by was how she decided to not let it get the best of her and just have fun with her team regardless of what was going on. And for that she came home with hardware. And the medals were in the two disciplines she’s traditionally and the hardest time with! We were happy that she was able to come home with some medals, but also a good idea of the fine tuning she needs to do for the next competition.
This has been a stressful week to say the least. When your child—who is harder on herself than anyone could ever be—struggles it is hard to watch. Emelia has dove her entire emotional, physical and mental focus into gymnastics for 6 years—the last 4 of which have been competitively. It is a brutal sport, it is demanding mentally, physically and it is a scored event so it messes with you in every possible way. The last sport you would think an anxious child would take on. But this has been her life for 4 years, working her ass off, training so hard, pushing down doubts and training so hard to get that delayed gratification that all the work will one day pay off. The hard thing for gymnastics is that 9 months of training comes down to less than 5 minutes total of time in front of a panel of judges. Brutal right?
So this week Emelia’s knee had been really sore, swollen and quite concerning. We had done everything we could to protect it and rest it. Not easy for a very active child. But with changes in dance where she would only observe, rest on all impact and running in gym classes at school and modifications to practice we did everything we could to rest her knee. By Thursday we were at physiotherapy again hoping another treatment would give her some relief. She was taped up, we had braces to use for school and training hoping for the best.
Come Saturday morning we were as ready as she was going to be. Emelia was up before the sun getting ready. Her hair in a tight pony tail, curlers in and bag packed. By just after 9:30 we were on our way to make the most of the day and to keep Emelia distracted as best we could. Emelia has been slowly transforming her room to her teen room and she had been saving money she got for her birthday to get some things from Ikea. We made our stop there, found the items on her list, made some changes to a few things she wanted and grabbed a bite to eat. By the time we wrapped things up we had plenty of time to make our way to competition with time to spare.
Shortly after we arrived Emelia’s teammates started arriving and it was clear the girls were ready and happy to see each other. This year has been beyond challenging for this team, they have been shuffled around between coaches with little to no consistency. The other parents and I were chatting about this while we watched the girls cheer each other on, the adversity this year has brought this team together, they have had to really rely on each other for support in a very uncertain year. They are such an incredible group of girls and we could not be happier with how much they love and support each other.
Emelia and her teammates started out on floor. Emelia was nervous and excited starting here, she was nervous about how her knee would hold up with all the tumbling. She started strong and then something strange happened, the music kept cutting out, it threw her off so much she could not keep the proper beat of the performance trying to assure she kept in time with the music. She missed parts of her dance part and she had to keep adjusting. We were really proud of her pushing through but her score was very disappointing for her. She was so proud of how far her floor routine had come so scoring and starting this competition out that way wasn’t the best way to start.
They moved on to vault, Emelia is normally very strong on vault but this is the event hardest on her knee. She had one really clean run for practice and stopped there to rest her knee. Unfortunately she couldn’t get the impact on the spring board to get the full rotation on her vault so she didn’t score as high as she knows she can. Not an ideal start. Normally vault is her strong event so seeing her score lower than she wanted was not ideal.
Then she was off to bars, in the past this has her nemesis. She has really battled this year on bars, problems with her back has really impacted some skills but with a lot of hard work she build a great routine that she was very proud of. She went through and gave an incredible performance and it was clean. She got her second to highest score ever on bars and for the first time medaled. And a silver to boot!
Finally beam, this event was really throwing all the athletes through out the day, lots of the girls were falling off and generally not having great performances. Emelia went up on her last event and although it wasn’t her cleanest performance with a huge wobble and form problems on her back walkover she stayed on the beam. The score let her hold on for a tie for bronze along side her teammate. We found out after from Emelia that the beam was terribly wobbling so it was really hard to stay on which explains so many of the girls falling off.
Finally we moved to awards, what we love is that the girls have no idea where they place until the actual awards. Emelia knew she had scored strong on bars but she had no idea she had placed second so seeing her face when she realized she got her first medal on bars was absolutely amazing. She was in total shock. But honestly the highlight was when she and Kaitlyn tied for beam. They held hands the whole time and could not stop giggling they were so happy. Emelia told us after that it was a goal of the two girls to tie for an event so they could share the podium. It was an amazing moment on a day that started out pretty rocky.
In the end we are beyond proud of Emelia, not for getting medals but for working through some incredibly hard circumstances to take on the day with a positive attitude and to support her friends no matter what. Gymnastics as a sport had shown and taught her so many things that she may not understand now but will as she grows up. She has been taught patience, to be humble, to work hard for something that you might not see the results you want and more than anything is to never stop believing in herself!