When did Amelie start learning gymnastics? What age? When did Amelie begin to set herself apart from the others as a “budding gymnast”?
Amelie started attending kindergym classes at about 18 months. She immediately showed a love for the sport. Unfortunately, her attendance was sporadic as we were dealing with a lot of croup and pneumonia for the next few years. On the other hand, despite being told that she would have low muscle tone and poor coordination, her little body was born looking like a gymnast. She had definition in her quads and calves at two and the upper body was ripped before she turned four! This power and strength is combined with flexible joints which is a bit of a rare commodity. Amelie had her second 12 hour open heart surgery at three and waited patiently until she had recovered to start in the Pre-competitive program. She was in the gym less than two months later! She has an array of medical problems that make training extra challenging, but these issues also seem to make her extra tough. Now that she is seven years old, Amelie has been invited into the Competitive program at Phoenix gymnastics in Vancouver. One of a handful of young hopefuls being expertly trained by Mariana and Igor from 12-16 hours/wk. No one can even imagine that Amelie has a double life; gymnast and frequent flyer at the BC Children’s hospital.
Can you share more information about her training, her favorite areas (bars, beam, floor, vault?) and one or two of her milestones (when she learned a back handspring/back tuck, etc….)
Amelie has a real passion for the uneven bars, we can hardly get her to stop swinging on anything that remotely ressembles a horizontal bar. Her second favourite is vault, but is slowly being rivalled by beam. In the past, she has struggled a bit with the demands of beam as it requires terrific balance and total focus. Her ears are often fluid filled and the ability to concentrate intensely is still developing. However, under the tutelage of her new coach her fondness (and ability) for beam is increasing. As for milestones, she was doing round off back handsprings and press to handstands at six years old and is now working on cast to handstands on the bars.
What advice would you give other 22q parents? (especially about pushing forward and keeping the dream?)
It is very easy, when you have a child like Amelie who is medically fragile and susceptible to infections, to turn her into a hot house flower; to protect her and shield her from the world. Very early, my husband and I made a philosophical decision to expose her to the world, encourage her to follow her passions and that we’d live with the consequences. Has she been more frequently ill? Probably. Is she happy? Incredibly so. She has a driven, powerful personality that will not be deterred. She is best served by having outlets for that. We have enrolled her in lots of sports (not swimming!!) and let her try her hand at as much as possible. Further, her involvement in sports has likely frequently helped her to recover from illnesses or surgeries and music programs have developed her mental faculties. It’s all therapy! She has skated, rock climbed, played soccer, done ballet, tap and jazz, arts programs, hiking, skiing and plays the violin beautifully. Upon the diagnosis of Digeorge, my heart was filled with anxiety that I would have a child who would struggle in EVERY single area of her life: Social, Developmental, Cognitive, motor skills, medical – I saw nothing but suffering ahead. But her story had not yet been written. She has taught me that It’s her story and she’s the author. In the meantime, if I can give her as many reasons as possible to have good self esteem and feel some autonomy over her highly medicalized and “imperfect” body, I will.
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