Gifted gymnast Aaliyah keeps raising the bar
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
There aren't too many nine-year-olds who can say they are one of the country's leading competitors in their sport. But for talented gymnast Aaliyah Manning, it seems the sky is the limit.
With her relentless energy and incredible flexibility, it wasn't long before parents Chloe Mace and Daniel Manning recognised Aaliyah's potential talent for gymnastics.
When she reached four-years-old, the Reydon couple took Aaliyah along to Waveney Gymnastics Club where she was picked for the developmental squad, before later going for a trial at Pipers Vale Gymnastics Club in Ipswich and earning selection for her age group.
Her first competition with her new club was a resounding success and, from there, Aaliyah has come on leaps and bounds - culminating in a second place finish at last month's British Compulsory Championships in Stoke-on-Trent.
'From a very young age it seems she was born to be a gymnast,' said Miss Mace. 'When she started she absolutely loved it, and picked it up so fast.
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'She travels to Ipswich for training four times a week which is obviously a huge commitment, but she's so passionate about gymnastics. We have to say thank you to Reydon Primary School as they have been so accommodating.
'People don't realise the level of physical discipline that is required to be a gymnast and, because she's still so tiny, people still underestimate her ability!'
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Aaliyah's remarkable talent and growing reputation has made her quite the celebrity, boasting more than 10,000 Instagram followers and earning personal congratulations from Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler.
She is now firmly in contention to be selected for the national squad and another strong performance at a second nationals in November will all but confirm her inclusion.
But having only just competed on the national stage for the first time, Aaliyah - who idolises Claudia Fragepane - is setting the bar even higher.
She said: 'Competing at the national competition was scary at first but I felt confident once I got into it. Gymnastics is lots of fun and beam is definitely my favourite.
'One day I want to try and get into the Olympics, but if I can get in the national squad by the end of the year it would be amazing.'