When Isabela Onyshko was young, she was asked by her Brandon Eagles gymnastics coach what she wanted to achieve in the sport. Onyshko looked at a picture of Brandon’s Jenna Kerbis in her Team Canada jacket and said she wanted one just like hers.
Now 15 years old, Onyshko is just waiting for a parcel to arrive with her Canadian team jacket.
Onyshko, who was born in Minnedosa but now lives in Brandon, recently made the junior national team and next month she will head off to Italy with them to prepare for the Massillia Cup in Marseille, France from Nov. 15-17.
Although representing Canada on the international scene has been her dream for a long time, Onyshko didn’t think it would happen so soon.
"I hoped I could, but I didn’t know if it was really possible this year," she said.
This past year has been a whirlwind of success for the up-and-coming Eagles star. Coming into the spring, Onyshko had only been to one national championship as an open athlete, but she excelled in major competitions.
She placed fifth overall in the junior category at the Elite Canada event and then won a bronze medal in the junior girls’ uneven bars at the national championship. She also finished fourth on the beam, fifth on the floor and fourth all-around.
While her rise took a lot of people by surprise, Eagles coach Lorie Henderson credits the work ethic of her young protégé for her success. Onyshko trains about 31 hours a week at the Brandon Eagles Gymnastics Centre, is very dedicated to her work and has a keen eye for detail.
"She’s not satisfied with doing something or completing something; she wants to do it perfectly," Henderson said. "I think it’s that way for her at school as well. She’s just one in a million. Sometimes you just luck out and some kid comes along that can put all the pieces together.
"Now you have to be in the right place at the right time and avoid injuries. It’s difficult but I think it’s great she’s doing so well so far and I think she’ll accomplish what she wants to accomplish."
Onyshko has set high goals for herself. She would like to try to make the senior national team and hopefully compete in the Olympics or in the NCAA ranks.
However, she doesn’t want to look too far ahead as she tries to become the first Brandonite since Kerbis — who competed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia when she was 18 years old — to make the senior national team.
Onyshko plans to maintain her regimen and training to try to make her dream a reality, but Henderson knows it won’t be easy.
"(Making the senior national team is) a lot more difficult," Henderson said.
"There’s a lot more kids at that level now and that might take a year or so, but I think we just put one foot ahead of the other and eventually she’ll get there."