Fourth-grader Elisabeth Foss holds dreams of twirling ribbons in the Olympics.
The rhythmic gymnast is on that path with her first big foray into major competition when she and three of her teammates at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Club of Victoria compete at the BC Games in Penticton.
“I’m really proud of Elisabeth for her commitment and her willingness to get out there and compete as a first-year competitive gymnast. That takes a lot of guts,” said coach Kristy Wilson. “It’s really great that she’s willing to put herself out there. It says a lot about her personality.”
It’s a sport in development, says Wilson, who has coached Elisabeth for 18 months, and Vancouver Island is one of the regions underdeveloped while Vancouver, for example, is a stronghold.
It limits their ability to find the athlete in the right competitive stream, age, commitment and ability.
Elisabeth, who is also “focused and hard-working,” met all the criteria.
“This is her first year doing competition. It’s very much going to be a growth opportunity for her to learn from,” says Wilson. “She’s really stepped it up this year. Last year she was more in a performance program and this year she put up her hand and said she wanted to do more and take on more of a challenge. So we moved her into the competitive team. She’s shown huge growth in the last couple of months.”
Rhythmic gymnastics features difficult body movements – leaps and turns and balances – at times combined with apparatus such as hoops, a ball, clubs or ribbons (Elisabeth’s favourite).
The mix of dance and gymnastics drew her mom Elena to the sport and she enrolled Elisabeth when her daughter was in Kindergarten. A few years later, Elisabeth remains enamoured with the sport, practicing several times a week with her club plus a little homework on the side.
“It’s fun, you can go upside down,” she says. The youngster has no difficulty picking up a foot until her leg aligns with her face for a photo, with a grin. Then she slides into the splits – with ease.
Elisabeth is currently mastering two individual routines and a group ball routine with three Greater Victoria peers – Lily Williams, Katie Evans and Micaela Brennan.
“We’re hoping in particular that our group will do well this year,” Wilson said.
Elisabeth loves the challenge of her freestyle routine, featuring splits, side holds, turns and leaps.
“It’s fast and hard to keep up with the timing and I like that,” she says.
Her rope routine may be an exercise in competition readiness, and not appear at the BC Games.
“It’s a difficult sport, it requires a lot of co-ordination … you have to do these difficult body movements and you have to then do them while you’re moving the apparatus,” says Wilson “We want to put forward her strongest.”
It will also be the girl’s first foray away from home. Elisabeth holds no fears of heading out on her inaugural overnighter and her first major competition.
“It’s my first big thing,” Elisabeth says. Naturally, with Olympic dreams in mind, she wants a medal.
“We keep our expectations focussed on personal bests,” says Wilson, “learning from the experience, watching and taking it all in.”
The B.C. Winter Games are Feb. 25 to 28 in Penticton. Other sports include archery, badminton, biathlon, curling, diving, figure skating, ringette and skiing. Visit bcgames.org for participants and results.