Teenager tum­bles to golden ac­co­lades

Hawke's Bay Today - - Sport - Gym­nas­tics Anen­dra Singh

For Hawke’s Bay gym­nast Laura John­son, it’s been an ac­ro­batic hands-and-feet jour­ney of pain and gain but that hasn’t stopped her from tum­bling her way to golden glory.

John­son re­turned with a gold medal from the four-day New Zealand Gym­nas­tics Cham­pi­onship which ended in Tau­ranga last Satur­day.

“It was eas­ier on my body and less de­mand­ing,” says the 16-yearold from Hau­moana who switched to tum­bling from artis­tic gym­nas­tics — vault, bar, beam and floor — in only May this year.

John­son, who was among six other Omni Gym­nas­tics Cen­tre mem­bers who re­turned with seven golds, three sil­vers and two bronzes, had ac­cepted the ad­vice of coach Dale Cof­fey.

“I thought it was a good idea be­cause I could still be in­volved with gym­nas­tics,” she says, en­joy­ing an in­jury-free spell al­though she took an el­bow in­jury to the na­tion­als.

The Have­lock North High School Year 11 pupil, who had stress frac­tures in both her wrists at sep­a­rate times last year, used to flirt with tum­bling be­fore that. She was at her sixth na­tion­als and her only other gold came in level six vault at the na­tion­als in Napier in 2013.

Nev­er­the­less, it wasn’t easy mak­ing the switch from her artis­tic pas­sion. But, while tum­bling has al­le­vi­ated the pain, there’s the agony of know­ing that the lat­ter isn’t an Olympic sport.

“I’ll take it to next year and see how it goes,” says the for­mer Hau­moana Pri­mary School and Have­lock North In­ter­me­di­ate pupil whose mother Cheryl got her into the sport from age 3.

For now, the teenager is mak­ing the most of the 25m tum­bling track, eclips­ing the field of 12 other ri­vals by three points in the 15- to 16-year fe­male cat­e­gory at the ASB Bay­park Arena.

Her rou­tine in­cluded “vol­un­tary pass”, which en­tails a round off whip back, whip back, whip back with full-twist­ing lay up, and a “com­pul­sory pass” to the tune of a round off flick flack be­fore fin­ish­ing with the vol­un­tary pass again in a top-eight fi­nal.

She is in­debted to her main coach, Jane Shel­drake, of Napier.

Sam Alexan­der, of Puke­tapu, claimed gold in level 5 pom­mel horse, his first in three na­tion­als but it came as a sur­prise on day one on Thurs­day.

“I only found out I got gold when it was prize­giv­ing time,” Alexan­der re­vealed, af­ter the elec­tronic score­board had a hic­cup while he was still on an ap­pa­ra­tus.

“When they fi­nally got it run­ning my score had al­ready been and I hadn’t seen it,” he says with a laugh, dis­clos­ing he had mo­men­tar­ily an­tic­i­pated an­other na­tion­als de­void of medals.

Alexan­der, who also com­peted in the rings, vault, par­al­lel bars, floor and high bars, says it’s re­ally re­ward­ing to be first in a field of 13. “I had only won a cer­tifi­cate be­fore that in vaults last year,” says the 14-year-old from Lind­is­farne Col­lege in Hast­ings.

The Year 9 pupil, who en­joys floor and vault in five years of be­long­ing to Omni cen­tre, wishes he had claimed medals in par­al­lel bars and vault.

“I’m try­ing to get higher and higher and make it to the top to be one of the best gym­nasts,” says Alexan­der, who har­bours Olympic am­bi­tions and salutes coach Jo Cox.

He at­tributes his suc­cess to a smooth rou­tine, place­ment of hands and get­ting lots of air be­tween his legs and the pom­mel horse.

Thomas Dew clinched gold with a first over­all per­for­mance in level nine.

Dew was first on the floor, vault and par­al­lel bars as well as third in the rings.

The 19-year-old Eastern In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy stu­dent trains with na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tives and hopes to break into the in­ter­na­tional ranks next year.

Cody Smith claimed gold in the 11- to 12-year-old male dou­ble mini dis­ci­pline.

Zayne Cof­fey got sil­ver medals in pom­mel, rings and par­al­lel bars while Abi­gail Ben­nett won bronze in syn­chro­nised tram­polin­ing.

PHOTO / DUN­CAN BROWN

Thomas Dew (left), Cody Smith, Zayne Cof­fey, Sam Alexan­der and Laura John­son with the spoils Omni Gym­nas­tic Cen­tre mem­bers won at the na­tion­als in Tau­ranga last week.

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