Cheerleader Grace bounces back to shoot for All Stars

By Cheerleading By Hannah Norton

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SHE'S OFF: Young Northland cheerleader Grace Hegh heads off to the All Star Games in Las Vegas next week.PHOTO/JOHN STONE
SHE'S OFF: Young Northland cheerleader Grace Hegh heads off to the All Star Games in Las Vegas next week.PHOTO/JOHN STONE

At 1.40m Grace Hegh isn't all that big but she'll be taking on the world when she lands in Las Vegas next week.

The 11-year-old Northland cheerleader is representing New Zealand in the individual cheer section of the All Star Games, an international championship of aerial sports.

It's a competition which Grace is technically too young to compete in; but she was granted an exemption after being scouted by top American choreographer Luke Johnson.

Her mother Andrea Hegh said she'd been preparing for the big crowds expected at the Games by performing in front of fellow cheerleaders.

Grace has her final public performance tonight at Whangarei Academy of Gymnastics in Kensington.

"She's feeling pretty good. I think it was a definite boost for her to [do it in front of people]," Mrs Hegh said.

"There's going to be thousands and thousands of people at the All Star Games."

Grace will be competing over two days, with her individual routine that is a minute-and-a-half long and features jumps, standing and running tumble, and dance.

Competing at the Games is a dream that was almost shattered at her fundraising event last November, when the wind picked up the inflatable track she had been tumbling on and flicked her tiny 29kg frame over a car and head-first on to concrete.

Grace was rushed to Whangarei Hospital with a head injury that required stitches, a sprained hip and a dislodged growth plate in her elbow; and it was later discovered, a hidden neck injury.

"What we didn't realise at the time is that when she hit the ground, the cushioning between two vertebrae in her neck dispersed," Mrs Hegh said.

Despite receiving doctors' clearance in January, Grace recently started experiencing dizziness when she tumbled. "It was discovered a main artery to her brain was being occluded."

"She's being doing rehabilitation since and the cushioning has rejuvenated," Mrs Hegh said. "She's recovered really well."

The family are still $2500 short of the $10,000 required for the trip, so are making a final appeal for donations.

Entry into tonight's performance is a gold coin donation, and people can also donate into the fundraising account, ANZ 06-0977-0800220-00.

The performance starts at 7pm at Whangarei Academy of Gymnastics, ASB Sports Arena, Kensington.

- Northern Advocate

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