Rhythmic gymnast honoured at Ottawa Sports Awards

The day of the Ottawa Sports Awards ceremony, Lucinda Nowell was stuck in a car inching along a highway, just outside Picton, Ont.

Cars were lined up along the highway as far as the eye could see, as traffic struggled with blowing snow and extreme weather conditions.

But the Kanata Lakes teenager wasn't going to allow the weather prevent her from heading home to accept an award honouring her accomplishments over the past decade as a rhythmic gymnast.

The trip represented more than just an award - it was a chance to see her friends from Earl of March Secondary School, and just hang out, like any other normal 17-year-old girl.

"She really misses her friends when she moved to Toronto," said her mother, Helen.

Surrounded by her parents and grandparents, Lucinda attended the Ottawa Sports Awards banquet on Jan. 29 at Algonquin College.

"It's really nice to be recognized and everyone that's helped me along the way is recognized as well," said Lucinda, who was one of dozens of athletes honoured at the event.

Helen said she was very proud of her daughter.

"She is very deserving," said Helen. "She's worked very hard. It's been a lot for her over the last few years, so I'm very proud."

Lucinda has been anything but an average teen, ever since she won the provincial rhythmic gymnastics championship in Toronto in 2011 and later earned a spot on the senior Canadian rhythmic gymnastics team last May.

She first took up the sport at the age of six, when her mother signed her up for a recreational class taught by a woman in Stittsville.

Only a year later, she decided to move into the competitive stream, and tried out for a spot at the Kanata Sportive Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, which trained at Bridlewood Public School's gymnasium.

"There were some very good girls there, and she was struck by everything they were doing," said Helen, who eventually volunteered at the club as a communications director.

Dasa Lelli, the club's head coach, said she was immediately impressed with the girl's focus.

"All I could see was determination in this child and amazing family support," said Lelli. "That usually goes a long way."

Training time was never wasted with Lucinda.

"When she enters a gym, her one and only thought is, 'Let's get the work done.'" Perhaps her greatest skill was the ability to perform pirouettes, said Lelli.

"She is the gymnast who could turn five to seven times."

In 2010, Lucinda made the jump from provincial to national-level competition, which meant training 22 hours a week with Club Rhythmik Quebec, located in Montreal.

It meant adjusting her time-table at Earl of March, allowing her to train in Montreal on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

"It's not that bad," said Lucinda. "You don't really get overwhelmed if you stay on top of everything."

The work eventually paid off.

In 2013, Lucinda won a silver medal in the Eastern Regional Championship, with a first in ribbon, a third in ball and hoop and a fourth in club.

As Ottawa's only national-level rhythmic gymnast, Lucinda placed fourth overall in the senior national category at the 2013 Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Ottawa, earning the second highest score in the clubs event.

Last May, Lucinda earned a spot on the national team, which trains in Toronto, and demanded a whole new level of commitment from the then-16 year old.

Together with her family, Lucinda moved to Toronto and enrolled at Leaside High School, where she hopes to graduate this year.

In April, the team will compete in two world cups, held in Lisbon, Portugal, and Pesaro, Italy, and in September will participate in the rhythmic gymnastics world championship in Izmir, Turkey.

The team will also compete in the Pan Am Championship this August in Toronto, a qualifier for next year's Pan Am Games, which will also be held in Toronto.


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