Friday, April 23, 2010

Canadian teen with CP competes on gymnastics team

From The Petersborough Examiner in Canada:

Hailey McCormack's eyes light up and she points with two thumbs up when asked what she thinks of gymnastics.

Having cerebral palsy hasn't stopped the 13-year-old Grade 8 Armour Heights pupil from challenging herself the past two years at the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board's Elementary Gymnastics Meet.

With a floor routine modified to meet her physical challenges, McCormack tumbled, rolled and posed alongside 400 Grade 4-8 students from 13 area schools on Wednesday at the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre.

"Most of her life she he has taken gymnastics at Champions Gymnastics," said Armour Heights coach Jill Taylor, "She had some experience when she came to us last year."

Taylor and co-coach Diane Istead lend a helping hand for some stages of McCormack's routine.

"Her muscles don't work the same way as everybody else's do so she needs a little bit of help," Taylor said. "We adapted her routine a little bit from what the other Grade 7 and 8s are doing and the judges nicely let us do that."

Speech is also a challenge McCormack is progressing at with help from her teachers.

"Headstand roll," she said, is her favourite element of her routine.

She found the whole experience "Fantastically exciting."

Taylor says her teammates encourage her at every turn.

"She's part of the team," said Taylor. "Hailey is supported by everyone on the team and they all give her a hand and give her pointers when she's practising."

Until Grade 6 McCormack attended King George where meet co-ordinator Brenda Foster is principal.

"In such an able-bodied sport it's nice to see kids with physical challenges being able to come out and compete," Foster said. "We're very open to having modified routines for those children. Hailey has great support from her coaches who help her in terms of learning a modified routine and then physically helping her through the routine."

Participation by physically challenged children is not common, but it is encouraged, said Foster.

"We don't see very many kids with obvious physical challenges. There are some girls competing who have learning issues that may prevent them from remembering their routine as well as other kids. When we watch Hailey we can see that children with physical limitations are able to compete and do the routines just like other girls," she said.

Foster is impressed by McCormack's improvement over two years.

"I think for her self-confidence it's amazing. I also think the spirit of being with a team, friends and classmates and taking part in such a huge event is a major bonus for her. She always has a big smile on her face and today that smile is really, really evident."

Foster was also excited by a couple of other developments with this year's event. North Cavan participated for the first time under new coach Mark Hamel.

"Mark has taken the team over so it's really nice to see them here for the first year. They're excited and doing a nice job," Foster said.

There was also a record number of boys.

"We have 31 boys competing this year so the interest from boys is certainly growing," said Foster. "We started off with two boys the first year and, maybe, had a dozen or so last year. I think when boys get interested they draw their friends into the program and they see that it's a great sport. They get a buzz when they get out onto the floor."