Anna Dunstan is dressed in her bright red glittering leotard and effortlessly swirls her ribbon through the air until the fabric knots at the end.

"Help! My ribbon is all tangled up. Oh man I don't like knots," Anna says.

The 17-year-old rhythmic gymnast says points are taken off if there are knots in the ribbon.

After untangling it, Anna balances on one foot and points her toes for the camera - it is an extraordinary effort for the teenager who couldn't walk before she turned four.


Anna was born with Down Syndrome and still struggles to find her balance, but mum Shirley Dunstan says gymnastics and dancing have helped.

"The part that I enjoy the most is seeing her be herself among others who see her as a normal person," Shirley says.

"She is such a people person and just keen to live life like everybody else."

Shirley says following routine also helped with Anna's memory, confidence and speech.

"Talking can sometimes be an issue," she says.

Anna's favourite choreography is her hoop routine. "I know all of that one off by heart," Anna says.

But mostly she enjoys being able to perform. "I love to dance and I love music," Anna says. "And I love to dress up in my costumes."

Her favourite song to dance to is See How Far I Go from the 2016 Walt Disney 3D computer-animated musical film Moana.

Anna started ballet, tap and jazz dancing at Susan Hangar at age 8, when she met her gymnast coach Hannah Rushton.

"I love my coach. She is my best friend," Anna says.

Coach Hannah learned the Level 1 Special Olympics routine in her spare time especially to teach Anna.

"Without Hannah, Anna wouldn't be able to do this," Shirley says.

The teenager has been doing rhythmic gymnastics at Argos Gym for a term and a half and, after competing in only two competitions, she already has medals under her belt.

Anna was first overall in ball, hoop and ribbon in the Special Olympics section of a rhythmic gymnastics competition at Counties Manukau, Auckland, on June 16.

It was only her second competition. "I want to show everybody I can do it," Anna says.

She trains at Argos Gym on Koromiko St for about an hour each week and sometimes at home.

"That gets a bit tricky sometimes because the ribbon gets tangled at home on the furniture," Shirley says.

Coach Hannah Rushton, 15, said Anna was the only Special Olympics competitor at Argos Gym.

"I can see that she is really talented and she shows so much passion for competing," Hannah says.

"She is so kind to all of the other competitors to make sure they are practising, eating and stretching ... she is just amazing."