Destined to Soar: An interview with Summer Finlay, National Para-Gymnast

Destined to Soar: An interview with Summer Finlay, National Para-Gymnast

Celeste Kocabay

 Destined to SOAR.

This interview series is aimed at celebrating, recognising and promoting the incredible talent and ferocious courage of our young women of tomorrow.

Let's recognise the magnificent effort of girls' in sport across all codes!

Today our interview is with Youth Sensation and National Para-Gymnast Summer Finlay. Soar Active had the privilege to catch up with Summer and chat about her love for Gymnastics.

  1. Summer, tell us about your early life?

Summer: I was born with Spina-Bifida and Hydrocephalus which means I am paralysed below the waist. I have used a wheelchair since I was two and always loved being active. When I was four years old I discovered WCMX (Wheelchair BMX) and this became a passion for many years. Aged 5 I joined a dance class which I did cheerleading and ballet. This took me into many performances and I even got to perform at the O2 in London! During Covid I knew I needed a new challenge that built on my love of dance and performing which lead to discovering Gymnastics.

2. So how did you discover Gymnastics?

Summer: I was watching lots of YouTube videos of different para-sports and with my love of dance I found videos of Acro Gymnastics. However I couldn’t find any videos of people competing in wheelchairs. Watching the videos with my parents we decided to explore and see if this is available in my area.

3. What was your next step?

Summer: We explored different clubs in my local area and had to approach them to ask if they could accommodate for a wheelchair user. Unfortunately, most clubs said they were not experienced enough or didn’t have a disability coach that could help me. Luckily, I then spoke with Hollington Gymnastics who said they had never taught anyone in a wheelchair before but would love to explore and learn together. I was paired up with my coach Esme and we have grown together!

4. How do you balance your competitive training and managing school?

Summer: I train for about four hours a week at the moment which is after school. Sometimes this means a long day but causes the least disruption to school. If I have competitions they are always on weekends which helps too, but if I have to travel far, the school are supportive in helping me reach my potential. I always make sure I complete my homework on days I’m not in gym.

5. What do you do in your downtime?

Summer: I love getting creative with art and making things. I love drawing and sketching as well as getting outdoors and gardening or exploring with my family in the woods and in nature.

6. What makes you feel happy, brave, and strong?

Summer: I feel happiest when I am relaxing and sketching and when I am with my friends. I feel bravest when I am overcoming my nerves and performing my Gymnastics in competitions in front of big crowds. I feel strength when I am working on my routine and am able to learn new holds or stunts with my partner after lots of training and practice.

7. Tell us about a special moment in the last year?

Summer: In February I got very ill. I have a condition called Hydrocephalus which means I have too much fluid on my brain. This is treated with a special device called a Shunt which basically drains the fluid in my brain down to my stomach. In February, I started getting headaches and feeling really horrible. I had to go to hospital who found out my Shunt wasn’t working. I had to be rushed to King’s hospital for emergency life saving surgery. It was very scary but after the surgery I felt a lot better and after two days I was back home with my family. Five Weeks later I was at my next competition which I then qualified to get to The National Finals.

8. What is your ultimate goal?

Summer: My ultimate goal has always been to compete in the Paralympics. However, there isn’t currently any Paralympic Acro Gymnastics. So my goal is to show people that being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop you following your dreams. I want to inspire more people to go and follow your dreams and push the limits of expectations. The more people that see my Gymnastics, will hopefully help build the sport and get it international recognition!

9. What's your favourite attribute about yourself?

Summer: How active I am and have always been. I love pushing my limits and achieving new goals.

10. Favourite song on repeat right now?

Summer: Aside from my Gymnastics song, Rolling in the deep by Adele when relaxing or Roar by Katy Perry to hype me up for competitions.

11. What has Gymnastics taught you about life?

Summer: It doesn’t matter if you are in a wheelchair or not. If you push yourself you can always achieve your goals.

12. What would you say to other young females about following their dreams?

Summer: Never give up! If you want to achieve something there is always a way so if you get knocked down you need to come back fighting stronger.

Follow Summers awe inspiring journey on Facebook or Instagram


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