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hat is the one sport that almost allof us watch at the Olympics and theCommonwealth Games, making ourselvesexperts, critiquing and applauding, as weenvy the grace of the athletes?The gymnastics.Whether it is artistic or rhythmic, we are
captivated by the way the artistes ip, leap
and bend; doing it all with grace and in timeto music. It was this sport, art, which SoniaSingh introduced to her daughter Saasha atthe age of four.The bubbly Saasha, now 14, is to repre-sent New Zealand in artistic gymnastics,along with 9 others, at the Aloha Gymfest inHawaii this coming January.This international competition has beenheld for the past 36 years inviting athletesfrom the United States, Japan, Canada, Aus-tralia and of course, New Zealand. Saasha will
be the rst Punjabi athlete from New Zealand
to represent New Zealand at this event. Whenasked about her goals for Gymfest, she laugh-
ingly said that her priority was to place rstand if not that, denitely second and third!
The 14-year-old started off dabbling inthe rhythmic style of the sport early on in her
training before being handpicked to join the
artistic squad.Saasha has been competiting on the na-tional scale since the age of nine, which is theyoungest age at which one can participate.In 2010, she earned the National GymnasticChampionship and hasn’t looked back since.It was only when asked about the challengesshe faced in achieving pursuing her love for the sport did I discover that she was born and brought up in Christchurch.Following the earthquake early last year,the family moved to Auckland throwingSaasha into a completely unfamiliar world; anew gym, new team and a new coach. Anyoneelse may have let this move and change dis-tract them, and have slacked on training andcompeting, losing interest. This vivaciousgirl however, worked even harder to make
sure she did not fall behind!
What is it about this sport that kept her at-tracted her and kept her interest so long? Itis the uniquely risky and glamorous natureof the activity she says; mastering a tech-nique and improving her rare skillset. Whenasked about her favourite move, she is silentfor about a minute before resolutely decidingthat there are way too many to choose from.Her likes and interests, however, reach beyond the simple sporting aspect as Saashaexplains that she loves meeting so many people and making new friends with similar interests. These interests however, are not
just limited to gymnastics.
In addition to playing other sports suchas football, touch rugby and running cross
country, she mentions that she also enjoys
sewing and arts and crafts.
This taste in fashion must denitely come
in handy in picking out her performance
outts! Her favourite outt she muses is de
-nitely her nationals costume, which is bluewith stripes and many, many glittery spar-kles.So what is in store for Saasha’s future?Her mother Sonia says they are contemplat-ing moving abroad to maybe the UnitedStates or the United Kingdom to broadenher daughter’s horizons and opportunitiesin terms of artistic gymnastics; the sport not being popular in New Zealand. She hopesthat with Saasha’s love for the sport she will be able to earn a scholarship that allows her to train with the very best.I’m sure Saasha’s appreciation of school
subjects such as mathematics, science andsocial studies will denitely help her on
this path. Her long term goals also extend interms of her academics in that she hopes to,after competing (and placing) at the Com-monwealth and Olympic Games, of course, become a neurosurgeon. Not an easy feat by any means but thisself-assured, cheerful young woman I amsure will not rest until she gets there. She willsurely be gracing our television screens, in blue stripey sparkles, at the Rio Olympics.
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Saasha Singh in action and (above) the younggymnast with the other winners at one of theNational Gymnastic Championships