In the spirit

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Tar­ryn At­twell wanted noth­ing more than to be part of a team - ex­cept maybe to win tro­phies. She now has the chance to do both.

The bouncy 16-year-old Down syn­drome ath­lete takes her sport se­ri­ously, at­tend­ing classes each Wed­nes­day for the past six years with Palmer­ston North’s Zero Grav­ity Cheer­lead­ing.

A mem­ber of the gym’s mixed abil­i­ties class, Tar­ryn has taken part in com­pet­i­tive cheer­lead­ing meets in Manawatu, Welling­ton, Auck­land, and in Bris­bane, al­beit in the friendly ‘‘spirit’’ class.

But later in Oc­to­ber she will be com­pet­ing in the New Zealand Cheer Union na­tion­als in Auck­land, her first time in the se­nior level 1 open class - the more se­ri­ous stuff.

‘‘It’s a main­stream di­vi­sion of cheer­lead­ing,’’ said Zero Grav­ity’s Sarah Mitchell.

Ac­cord­ing to mum Al­lyAt­twell, Tar­ryn has an eye for tro­phies, medals and rib­bons, and as those weren’t avail­able in the ‘‘spirit’’ di­vi­sion, she was the one who made the call to step up.

‘‘When the music is play­ing she doesn’t stop - she’s up and danc­ing all the time to all the other teams’ rou­tines,’’ Ally said.

Also a mem­ber of the Frey­berg High School cheer­lead­ing squad, Tar­ryn has warmed up for the na­tional event by winning the Va­ri­ety Act award for her rou­tine at the re­cent Spe­cial Olympics SO Tal­ented con­test.

‘‘She did Zero Grav­ity proud,’’ Mitchell said.

Cheer­lead­ing has be­come a fam­ily af­fair for the At­twells. El­der sis­ter Cha­lyce started things off, re­cruit­ing At­twell as a ‘cheer­mom’, a role she has kept for Tar­ryn and her youngest daugh­ter Kyn­dra, 14.

Kyn­dra is now Tar­ryn’s coach, and to­gether the pair will go through Tar­ryn’s rou­tine three times a day, and some­times more.

There are a dozen mem­bers in Zero Grav­ity’s mixed abil­i­ties squad.

‘‘Tar­ryn is an in­spi­ra­tion,’’ Mitchell said. ‘‘I worked for Idea Ser­vices [the ser­vice arm for IHC] for three years and thought why not have a class? There is a lack of in­clu­sive sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. There are sports avail­able, but of­ten they are seg­re­gated.’’

‘‘Here, Tar­ryn gets to be part of a team,’’ Ally said. ‘‘Ex­er­cise is re­ally im­por­tant and this is a re­ally fun way of ex­er­cis­ing. She doesn’t have the stamina for usual team sports, but in cheer­lead­ing she knows she has a minute to give it her all - and she does.’’

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIR­FAX NZ

Cheer­leader Tar­ryn At­twell gives it her all.

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