Grace leaps to new heights

By Te Ao - Māori News

She will be the first Northlander to represent her region at a pinnacle world event for aerobic-gymnastics.

That's the challenge facing 13-year-old Grace Christey (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua) who has been selected to compete at the World Aerobic Gymnastic Championships in 2020.

She is currently the youngest of the NZ Aerobics Team preparing for the World Championships.

Grace explains how she first learnt about the sport, "I started off doing regular gymnastics and tumbling classes in Dargaville. Then one day my coach came to me and she was like, "Hey, there's this new sport coming in.  Do you want to give it a go?", and straight away I was keen to try it."

Four years later, she is at the top of her age group in the country.

"Last year I went overseas to ANAC an International competition and came 10th out of 43 other competitors. This year we've just recently had nationals and I came first in my individual and we came first in our group."

She says overcoming the challenges is rewarding, "If there's something that we can't get just like keep on motivating ourselves to get it and keep trying.  When you get it you get like a good feeling like "Yay I finally did it!" It just makes it more fun."

Now the world is in the palm of her hand. Grace says she's always wanted to represent Aotearoa and looks up to the current senior international world champion, Riri Kitazume from Japan, for inspiration.

Grace will be in full training for the next five months in preparation for the upcoming event. 

"This is the biggest thing in aerobics for me, it's the world championships.  It's where the top athletes go.  Just getting used to extra full on trainingm, getting my fitness up, my strength and just perfecting everything until it's perfect."

Grace heads to Azerbaijan in May next year for the 2020 World Championships.