Isabela Onyshko has already found success on the international gymnastics scene this year, and she’s looking for more.
The 15-year-old Brandonite is making her final preparations for the Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Ottawa from May 27-31, and there’s a lot more than national pride up for grabs at the event. How competitors fare in the championships will be key components in selecting the Canadian teams that will represent the country in July’s Commonwealth Games, August’s Pan American championships and October’s world championships.
Onyshko’s ultimate goal is to compete at the world championships, but she admits being in any of those events would be pretty special.
"(Nationals) is pretty big of a deal, not so much because it’s nationals but more so because it’s senior trials for Pan Ams and Commonwealths and events like that," she said Friday at the Brandon Eagles Gymnastics Centre. "Making a world championships team, that’s a bigger goal, but a Commonwealth Games team would be a pretty big deal."
This will be the first time Onyshko competes at nationals in the senior ranks, but she brings some experience with her. The 5-foot-1 gymnast, who was born in Minnedosa, has competed in two World Cup events already this season, and came home with a pair of medals.
In her debut on the tour in March in Qatar, Onyshko earned a bronze medal in the floor competition. She followed that up last month by winning a silver medal on the floor at the World Cup event in Croatia. She also exceeded her own expectations by qualifying for the finals in all three of her events — floor, uneven bars and beam.
It had been a long time since a Manitoban has won a medal at an international gymnastics event.
The only Brandon gymnast to compete in a Commonwealth Games before was Jenna Kerbis in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. Eagles head coach Lorie Henderson is hoping Onyshko could be the next, with this year’s Games slated for July 23 to Aug. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland.
"It would be nice because Jenna represented us eight years ago," she said. "It would be nice to have someone else go to the Commonwealth Games. It’s not necessarily Isabela’s main goal or main focus. It would be a great learning experience again, but we have to keep the big picture in mind for where she wants to end up. It would be nice. It would be like icing on the cake, but we just have to see where everything goes."
Although senior nationals will be a new level of competition for Onyshko, the gymnasium at nationals will be familiar. She’ll be competing in the same place in which she finished fourth all-around and third on bars at junior nationals last year.
After competing in two World Cup events this year, Onyshko is feeling pretty confident going into nationals and has set some high goals for herself.
"I’d like to hit (cleanly) and I think come away with a couple medals. That would be nice," she said.
Based on what Henderson has seen from Onyshko in practice, she feels her rising young star has a good chance to do well in Ottawa.
"She’s proven that she belongs to be amongst the top seniors in the country," Henderson said. "From what I’ve seen in practice, I expect she will put her stuff together. She may have some little mistakes, but we’re hoping for a good showing."