The Roosevelt junior-to-be has accomplished much, including competing in the Special Olympics World Winter Games and hiking nearly 1,600 miles of The Appalachian Trail.
Virginia Wade knows all about performing in big events and challenging herself, so she was more than ready Tuesday to put on one of her best performances in the Level 1-2 all-around gymnastics competition at the Special Olympics USA Games.
Competing in her home city at Seattle Pacific University’s Brougham Pavilion was a dream for the junior-to-be at Roosevelt High School.
But the moment was not too big for Wade, 17, who has Down syndrome. Not after being one of 22 U.S. skiers to compete in last year’s World Winter Games in Austria, finishing fourth and fifth in her two events, and hiking almost 1,600 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
“Not at all,” Wade said, when asked if she was nervous. She said the Winter Games experience “helped me feel better.”
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Of course, it also helped having family and friends cheering her on, and she finished first in the Level 1 16-21 age division, with a score of 68.90. That was the fourth-best score overall among the 13 Level 1 gymnasts.
That was just one of several excellent performances by Team Washington gymnasts.
Emily Montgomery was first in the Level 1 8-21 with a score of 53.10, Mia Crump was third in Level 2 12-15 (67.70) and Frannie Ronan, who at 8 is the youngest competitor at the Games, was third in Level 1 8-15 (66.25), less than one point behind the winner. Tatiana Goff was second in Level 3 16-21 with 66.65 points. Her score was the third-highest among the 14 competitors in Level 3.
For Wade, her preparation began when she was a toddler, when her mother found a class for Virginia after she showed early interest in gymnastics. At age 4, she began learning how to ski.
Wade conquered an even bigger challenge at 12 when she hiked for seven months with her family on the Appalachian Trail, covering 1,589 miles.
And she did it all in a pink tutu.
“All of it,” she said, smiling broadly.
That experience helped shape her, and it exemplifies the persistence she has exhibited all her life.
“That was really hard,” said Wade about the long hike, indicating it has made things like Tuesday’s competition seem easier by comparison.
Wade, who stayed after her competition to cheer on Goff in the Level 3 competition, said she was most happy with how she performed in her floor exercise (“It was really strong,” she said), even though it was her performance on the bars that elevated her to first place.
And it was the cheering that spurred her on.
“It makes me feel really great,” she said.
Wade will compete in the vault and balance beam Wednesday, and in bars and floor exercise Thursday. She and her teammates are certainly off to a good start.
Young star Frannie Ronan finishes with bronze
You could hear the whispers in the stands.
“There’s Frannie, there’s Frannie.”
If there was a star in the opening day of gymnastics competition at the Special Olympics USA Games, it was Frannie Ronan, the photogenic 8-year-old from Kirkland who is the youngest competitor at the these Games.
The loudest cheers for the all-around competition Tuesday at Brougham Pavilion at Seattle Pacific University were for Ronan, who became one of the faces of the competition and has relished her time in the spotlight, be it on TV, radio or in newspapers.
“Very happy,” she said, when asked how she felt about all the cheering for her.
Ronan, who has Down Syndrome, placed third in the Level 1 age 8-15 division in a very tight finish, scoring 66.25 points, just .75 points behind the winner.
But there was no disputing Ronan was also a winner.
She was proud that she was able to do things by herself, and that she was able to wait her turn, which she said was hard at first but then became easy.
“It was so much fun,” she said of competing.
Ronan has two more days of fun ahead. She competes on the vault and beam Wednesday and does the bars and floor exercise Thursday.