Daniel: Young gymnast thriving in lions den


American mezzo-soprano opera singer Marilyn Horne once said, “You have to know exactly what you want out of your career. If you want to be a star, you don’t bother with other things.”

The story of Dida Daniel, an eight-year-old gymnast, is no different from the assertion of the 89-year-old singer.

The youngster like most other kids picked interest in gymnastics after watching American gymnast Simone Biles, someone she regards as her role model.

“I watched Biles on television and I loved her moves, then I started to practice it,” Dida told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“For me, she is the best and I hope I can get to be like her and grow to become one of the best in the world.”

Ubi David, Dida’s father, told PUNCH Sports Extra how his daughter embarked on the journey to becoming a gymnast.

“We saw the interest she had for gymnastics when she was just two, then she would try standing on her toes and turning on the chairs,” he said.

“We had to clear the sitting room for her to demonstrate and also got her a swing to practice with. By the time she turned three, we discovered that she was really interested in gymnastics, she watched a lot of the sport.

“I started looking for how to enrol her until I saw coach Tony Asuquo on a TV programme, I had to come to Abuja to look for him and ever since she has been practicing here, she has really improved and I want to thank the coach and his team for their efforts.”

Ubi also opened up on the sacrifices to help the protégé achieve her dream.

“We saw how passionate she is and we are trying to encourage her. There are days she would beg me to allow her to sleep in the gym because she doesn’t want to be late for practice because we stay in Orozo, which is very far from Abuja and I equally have to stay back and so we both sleep in the gym on some occasions.”

Currently considered the best gymnast at her level, Dida, despite her young age, defied the odds to attain the level she is currently.

“The rise of Dida is something that has surprised many of us despite her young age,” Anthony Asuquo, her coach told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“She comes all the way from Nyanya-Karshi, Nasarawa to Abuja to train despite the challenges facing her parents. There are times we would get to the gym very early in the morning and we will meet her sleeping on the lockers before we later found out that she told the parents that she doesn’t mind sleeping in the gym to meet up with practice. I have never seen such commitment from a young girl before.”

According to Asuquo, the only Nigerian coach certified by Federation of International Gymnastics in Aerobic and Artistic gymnastics, Daniel, has surpassed Stephanie Onusiriuka, the country’s best at the Junior Olympics level.

“Dida is improving and getting better on a daily basis and right now she is a little bit above Stephanie,” he added.

For Dida, the journey to achieving her dream has not been smooth due to financial challenges.

“She is without any exposure, she is yet to attend any event, but we can tell how good and talented she is,” Asuquo added.

“There is a tournament coming up in Singapore but she can’t attend because we couldn’t get her a sponsor and it hurts. We hope we can get her sponsors to help her travel and develop her potential.”

Faith is founded upon the sacrifices and courage of people like the biblical Daniel, who was delivered from lions in miraculous circumstances. Because of Daniel’s faith and testimony, he was thrown into the den, but the lions didn’t devour him.

In life, trials and challenges will always surface, sometimes from nowhere, but in every case, your deliverance is determined by your faith and determination to keep going.

This Daniel from Cross River state, like her biblical counterpart, is not giving up despite the lions life has thrown on her part.

In her case, she’s applying balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, dedication and endurance, key elements of gymnastics to weave her way through to global reckoning and perhaps surpass her role model Biles.

“Gymnastics is fun, I just want to enjoy it right now and hopefully I will be able to attend events and become great,” she said.(Punch)

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