Sabrina Barsky, right, is totally devoted to her sport, gymnastics, and as she tells her story, it’s almost as if the feeling is mutual, if not zen-like.
“I just love gymnastics,” she said prior to one of her workouts at Vaughan Gymnastics. “I was probably born to do it.
“Every time I do some gymnastics, I feel I connect with the equipment and I feel I accomplish a lot.”
Accomplish a lot she has, as the 12-year-old recently returned from Le Gymnix Classique, an invitational competition in Montreal, where she won four gold medals and one silver. Crowned the overall champion in the provincial 3 division in her age group, Barsky was first in vault, balance beam and floor exercise, and the silver medallist on the uneven bars. The three golds and one silver earned her yet another gold as overall champion.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, she emerged as top athlete in her category at the Women’s Artistic Provincial Qualifier in Guelph. She finished first on the vault, balance beam, and floor exercise, giving her the overall gold.
In Ontario, she competes in the Level 7 category for 12 and 13-year-olds; in Quebec it’s Level 3.
Ontario and Quebec use different numeric systems for the same level of competition. In Ontario, the provincial competition structure consists of levels 5 through 9, with level 9 reserved for the best athletes. Beyond level 9 are the elite, nationally ranked gymnasts.
Her burning desire to succeed already has her eyeing a move up to level 8 later this year, something her coach, Karren Lee, believes is likely to occur.
“She has the skills,” Lee said last week. “She’s flexible. She has fantastic poise and grace. Her overall body strength is fantastic, and [she possesses] the psychological component. She’s driven and dedicated.”
Put it all together and you have a very good gymnast. Had Barsky started her sport a little earlier, she’d be even more advanced, Lee believes.
Barsky came to the sport late, at age 10. Most girls begin competing at around age seven and the good ones are participating in provincial events by age nine, Lee explained.
Still, Barsky has made tremendous progress in a short time, and Lee sees Barsky beginning to master the skills necessary to move up to the next level.
That would require her to add multiple twists in her floor routine and a more complex dismount from the vault. In addition, Barsky must add more complicated swings on the uneven parallel bars.
Lee has seen a lot of young athletes come and go, but in Barsky she sees something only a few possess.
“You need the physical attributes,” Lee explained.
But what’s even more important is the athlete’s desire to excel. “I see a lot of girls who have the physical attributes, but are not driven. Sabrina never balks at challenges. She loves them.”
Getting to her level of achievement has required some sacrifice. Four time a week, she heads to the gym after school for a four-hour workout. Then it’s home to work on school assignments, which given the course load at Leo Baeck Day School, usually takes her 21/2 to three hours a night to complete. That keeps her up to about 10:30, when it’s off to bed.
Barsky acknowledges she has given up a lot to focus on gymnastics. “Sometimes I have to sacrifice parties, bar and bat mitzvahs,” she said. “It comes down to what matters the most.”
Right now, the Elite Ontario provincials in late April are on the immediate radar, and longer term, Barsky is expecting to make the Canadian team for the 2009 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
After that, her ultimate goal is the Olympics.
Heady stuff for any young athlete, but as Barsky said, “I believe in myself. I have confidence.”