For one moment Isobel Neilson sits and sorts her medals, reciting where each originates.
Medals are issued for first through third place in gymnastics competition and tangled among them are the many ribbons for fourth and beyond.
The Oak Bay 10 year old has quite the haul.
It took her so long to list off, she promptly fulfills a need to quiet herself, with her self-prescribed form of yoga – roundoffs. Or something like a roundoff, something that ends in a flat flop on the ottoman. Then she walks around the living room on her hands for a minute.
She returns to the interview centred and mellow.
“She just never stopped doing handstands and cartwheels so we knew we had to do something with her,” says dad Jamie.
It’s not that she’s anxious or overly energetic – though over the course of an interview any Grade 4 student (St. Margaret’s) might be a tad nervous – it’s more what gymnastics does for Isobel.
“It calms me,” she explains, after a mental nudge from mom.
Isobel competes in Junior Olympics 03 at Falcon Gymnastics where her parents say quality coaches foster quality athletes. Stephanie says the coaches encourage and develop an amazing camaraderie at the Saanich gym.
“When they’re all practicing, there’s a genuine sense of ‘I’m so happy she finally got her kip.’ Falcon really builds a sense of team,” Stephanie said. (A kip is a basic element on the uneven bars, most recognizable to the layperson in the mount).
Over the Victoria Day weekend, Isobel competed at the Garden City Invitational at the Panorama Recreation Centre, finishing first in the Junior Olympic Division with a 37.50 score out of 40 in the all around.
Isobel had a gold medal in beam, silver in bars and floor and a fifth-place finish in vault.
The season of medals started in fine form with a gold medal in bars at a Comox competition in February.
In Duncan’s Orca Invitational she finished with a silver on the bars and bronze on the floor for bronze all around. Then came the pinnacle Delta Invitational where Isobel notched second overall with fourth-place finishes in vault, floor, beam and bars.
“That was the biggest meet I’ve ever been to,” Isobel said. She achieved her highest score on the floor to date in Delta – 38.175 out of 40.
During the 2010 Olympics, speed skater Clara Hughes won bronze in her final Olympic race at the Richmond Oval where the competition was held.
So when Isobel and teammate Julia Widdowson of Saanich tied for silver in the same venue, they pinged the Canadian six-time Olympic medalist on Instagram.
“Hey @claraannehughes we just won medals in the same building you did. We tied for silver in the gymnastics All Around at the Delta Invitational. Julia and Isobel.”
Hughes’ account replied with medal and smiling emoji’s and “Way to go girls. Your smiles say it all.”