Isabela Onyshko had been to national and international gymnastics events before, but nothing compared to the Commonwealth Games.
The 16-year-old Brandonite competed at a pair of World Cup events earlier this season and medalled at both. The Commonwealth Games, which wrapped up on Aug. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland, were Onyshko’s first multi-sport event, and it was bigger than what she thought. The crowds were bigger and were interested in a variety of sports as opposed to just gymnastics.
It caught her off-guard when she first stepped on the floor for the gymnastics qualifiers, but she managed to fight off the nerves and qualify for the all-around and beam finals.
"Maybe I didn’t consciously realize it affected me that first day, but I think it did," she said. "I think I just got out there and was like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do? There’s so many people.’ I think after that first day you knew what to expect and it was definitely easier going into the stadium after the first day."
Onyshko helped the Canadian women finish fourth in the team event, only 0.532 points behind Wales for a bronze medal. She also finished seventh in the all-around final with a score of 52.565 and in the beam final with 12.666 points.
While she earned some solid scores, Onyshko admits there’s room to improve.
"It was an OK performance. It wasn’t my best," she said. "There were some good things. It was my first time performing a new floor routine and that went well. Bars was a bit rough both days. It sort of had its ups and downs."
The Canadian gymnasts were busy during the Games and as a result Onyshko didn’t get to cheer on Canada’s other athletes in their events. She did, however, cheer them on from the athletes’ lounge.
She didn’t get to explore Glasgow much either, but she did enjoy walking out as part of the Canadian contingent during the opening ceremony.
As the youngest Canadian athlete there, Onyshko treated the Games as a learning experience, and there were many lessons learned, including how to handle large crowds as well as constantly being around four other athletes and preparing for the competition.
"All five of us girls were in the same room, so we had to deal with sharing a room and doing your own thing and stuff like that," Onyshko said. "When I travel by myself I do my own thing, but with four other girls it’s really hard."
The most important lesson for her routines came from Canadian teammate Ellie Black, who won gold, silver and bronze medals and finished fourth in two other events. Onyshko plans to use that lesson as she tries to make the Canadian team that will participate in the world championships in China in October.
"I think how to deal with higher pressure situations and something I’m still trying to convince myself of is to go out there and do my thing," she said. "When we had a team meeting, Ellie said she tries to do her thing and go for it like she’s at the gym. That’s something I took away and I’m trying to allow myself to do that. It was definitely a strong message there."