Lavinia is now officially a bonafide member of the ‘Epping gymnastics club’ and today is a big day for her as she joins her teammates for her very first gymnastics competition. We have an early start. At breakfast, Lavinia talks about showing off her medal when she goes to school tomorrow. I wondered if she was getting a bit ahead of herself. “Remember, even if you don’t win, you can still tell your classmates about the competition”, I remind her. Lakshmi starts to feel left out and is looking a bit downcast. She doesn’t like being the spectator and playing second fiddle. I try to talk to her, but it’s to no avail. Whatever I say is not going to make any difference. She’s a sensitive child and needs to work through these feelings. There is no point in suppressing them. Lavinia puts on her glitzy team leotard with matching leggings and jacket. Her hair is tightly gelled back into a ponytail and the matching maroon scrunchy completes the look and we are ready to go.
It is a forty minute drive to the venue. A school where the sports hall has been set up for the event. We take our seats next to the area where Lavinia’s group is having their competition. The hall fills with kids in their team outfits, their parents and some grandparents. As the start time approaches the children gather to have their practice session before the actual event gets under way. I can only see a couple of boys, the rest are all girls. There is only one boy in Lavinia’s section and he’s crying his eyes out. Nerves have got the better of him and not a word the coach tells him is helping to calm him down. Lavinia does her first tumbling act and executes it perfectly. She’s going to nail this competition I tell myself. There are four routines and once the practice run is over the judges take their position and the competition starts.
Lavinia flounders the first routine. During the practice session she bounced light-footedly landing with a feathery touch after each jump. This time the bounces land slightly awkwardly and marks will be deducted for each mistake. She still carries on regardless and performs the rest of the acts perfectly. One by one the children go through the motions. Some of the kids need a helping hand from their coaches, forgetting their steps, others do it with confidence. The biggest claps go to the children who fall but still get up and finish their parts. The little boy from earlier whose nerves got the better of him returned at the end with his older brother for support and completes his cartwheels. He is disqualified as he only completed one out of the four routines, but it didn’t matter. That one go will give him enough of a confidence boost to come back next time bigger and bolder.
The end of the competition and the judges tot up the marks while we wait. The individual medals are handed out first. Nothing for Lavinia or her team mates. I still think Lavinia did better than the three who got the medals but then I am biased. Next it’s the team prizes and we come to the very final award, the novice group’s (4-7 year olds) result. The bronze and silver go to the other groups in Lavinia’s section. Oh well I thought, that’s it then, time to pack up and go home and then I heard the names being called out. Arya, Harmony, Marjona and Lavinia get first prize. ‘Ye of little faith’, I tell myself, ‘you underestimated Lavinia didn’t you’. The morning talk about the ‘show and tell’ at school tomorrow, the confident swagger with which she walks back after each routine with a glint in her eyes and suppressed smile. Yes she never had a doubt and when we get the scoresheet we find out that she came fourth in her section and yes it was the first routine that lost her the points. It seems to matter more to me than to Lavinia as she enjoys everything she does with a relish and knows already that it is the journey that counts and not the result, this being only the beginning. And as for Lakshmi, she had a birthday party to go to in the afternoon. She tells me later that she had a far better time at the party than watching her little sister participate in a tumbling competition. Even if she says this now if the need ever arises I know that she will be by Lavinia’s side like the little boy’s brother to hold her hand and offer her support, till then a little bit of sibling rivalry rules.