THE competition season for North Shore gymnastics clubs has begun, and at least one West Vancouver gymnast is hoping to vault into the next echelon of competition this spring.
Mollie Jepson, 13, has spent more than half of her life tumbling, balancing, and flipping, mostly at Balance Gymnastics in West Vancouver.
"As a kid I always had lots of energy and I guess my parents just thought, 'We should put her in gymnastics,'" she says.
A left-handed amputee, Jepson needs a little more resourcefulness and a little more resilience than some of her fellow gymnasts.
"I was only born with a couple fingers on one of my hands, so it's definitely a struggle on bars," she says. "It doesn't really bother me. It's a weakness. Each gymnast has their weakness on an event and bars happens to be mine."
While she may not succeed at first, her willingness to try, try again has impressed coach Julia Kennett.
"She's really, really inspiring in that she never looks at a skill and thinks, 'I can't do that.' She just finds a way around it," Kennett says.
Jepson frequently utilizes her wrist and core strength in any routines that require a grip, according to Kennett.
"It takes me longer to learn on bars, I just to figure it out in my own way," she says.
While she excels in floor events, Kennett is quick to trumpet Jepson's vaulting abilities.
"She's always been an excellent vaulter. She's vaulted over things that are taller than her, which is a huge feat," Kennett says. For Jepson, gymnastics has become a way of life.
"I can never think of not being able to flip upside down and do all these fun, different events," she says.
Frequently practising after school, Jepson is hopeful her hard work will put her up against a higher level of competition.
"I'm hoping to get to provincial level three within the end of this year or next season," she says.
When not working on her back handspring on the balance beam, Jepson is also a provincial level competitive skier.
Any success on the mountain is attributable to her work at Balance Gymnastics, according to Jepson.
"Gymnastics helps everyone in so many ways. Balance, co-ordination, strength, cardio. Anything you can name, gymnastics will help you out with that," she says.
Besides being a physical trial, gymnastics also present a psychological challenge, according to Kennett.
"Every teenage girl gymnast at her age and stage starts to struggle with the mental aspect of gymnastics. You're travelling really fast, flying really high, and every once in awhile you've got to fall," she says. "It's scary and hard to get back at the same tricks after that, but she's been able to work through any incident that have come up and really showed her perseverance."
Mental strain is a concern for any athlete going into competitions, says Jepson.
"The worst thing you can do is get too nervous, and the nerves overtake you," she says.
Despite her competitive nature, Jepson says she values staying in the sport and having fun more than victory.
"It's just really nice to have friends you trust around you. They push you beyond your limits sometimes," she says. "That extra push is always really nice to have. . . .
When you're really tired what gets you through it is your friends."