Later this week in Rio, she will become the first Manitoba born and raised Gymnast to compete in the Olympics since Lynette Wittemaier at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. And considering she only began competing at the High Performance Level just 3 years ago, the meteoric rise of Westman’s Isabela Onyshko should be considered nothing short of amazing. And it only made her selection to the Canadian Olympic Gymnastics Team on June 30th that much more impressive.
It all began when she enrolled in a “just for fun” program in Minnedosa. But quickly discovered she had a passion and natural ability for Gymnastics- and that passion was only fueled by seeing former Brandon Eagle Jenna Kerbis wearing a National Team Suit at practice when Isabela was just 8-years-old.
“It meant a lot being able to see someone from your own club compete internationally and become a member of the national team. It really made me believe that my goals for the sport, I could make them come true,” said Onyshko.
The 18-year-old member of the Brandon Eagles was born in Minnedosa but moved to the Wheat City a couple of years ago to train and attend Vincent Massey High School.
Onyshko really made her presence known in 2014 when she won 2 silvers and a gold at the Nationals, came in 7th in the all-around competition at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and then gained invaluable experience at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships that year in Nanning, China.
The momentum carried into the following year with a 2nd place overall performance at the Elite Canada Competition, her first international Gold Medals at a World Cup event in Slovenia, the team silver at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, and a 16th place showing at the Worlds in Glasgow. And just a couple of months ago, Isabela earned the highest Canadian all-around score in history with a 58.55, upsetting heavily favored Ellie Black for the National Title in Edmonton.
Despite all that travelling, and a demanding training schedule of 36 hours per week- somehow Isabela managed to graduate this past June with a 90% grade average or better.
“Definitely had a lot of support from the parents and from the school. They were great with giving me spares when I needed to and giving me homework when I was away. When you’re away you have to do your homework and catch up when you get back,” said Onyshko.
Isabela loves to bury his nose into Historical Fiction Novels or Murder Mysteries. She says Humus is her favorite food- lamb rates at the other end of the scale. She’s not big on movies, but is a fan of Downton Abbey. Her father Daniel is a family doctor who continues to practice in Minnedosa, while her Mom, Paula is a physio therapist. Onyshko also has a younger brother and sister, while her great Grandfather once competed in the Tour De France.
Isabela’s guilty pleasure is collecting artwork where ever she travels. And while a colorful picture from Rio is one of her favorite keepsakes – getting a heads up on the “lay of the land” at a Pre-Olympic test event in May could pay dividends.
“It’s nice to know what to expect with the venue. Although it wasn’t that different than many other venues I’ve been in. It’s nice to know what to expect with the weather, because it’s quite different than Manitoba. When we went down there the first day before for podium training, we went for a long walk and we were really tired going into podium. So I think just being aware of that and being aware that the humidity and heat will drain you a bit more than you’re used to.”
Bela and her Canadian teammates begin the qualification round on Sunday and she’ll also be on the balance beam and uneven bars during Week two of the Games. A podium finish would provide her with what would surely be a memento of her travels that she, and her family, will never forget.