Meg had already worn her Astro Boy costume to four events earlier in the year and won all the prizes at three of them. So even though she had been looking forward to Comicon for months, she decided that was enough of that and UniNats was the thing to attend.
Leading up to UniNats 2017, we got onto their FaceBook page and looked at the events we might go and watch. Turns out there were a lot of events Meg could actually enter herself. There was a Junior category for riders aged under 14. This is the perk of choosing a "sport" that not many people do. I sent a message to the organiser and got a lovely message back telling us that Meg would not only be welcome to join in with any events, but that even beginners were encouraged to give it a go.
What other national championships can you rock up to on the day of the event and just put your name down to "have a go"?
UniNats 2017 was held over the long weekend, plus Tuesday, so it was a full on four days of unicycling. Who knew there were so many things you could do on a unicycle? For Track & Field there were races from 100m up to 10km. Then some unicycle specific races like Backwards 50m, One-foot pedaling 50m, and even Juggling while Unicycling 50m. I love that this was included as a respectful nod to all those clown unicyclists out there. Add to this the Flatland (tricks on flat ground), Street (tricks at a skate park) and Trials (jumping, riding and balancing over an obstacle course of pallets, beams and giant tyres). Not to mention the unicycle basketball, unicycle hockey, municycle (mountain unicycle) and freestyle (like figure skating to music on a unicycle).
Meg had her eyes set on the Backwards Slowboard, where you ride backwards down a 30cm wide, 10m long board as slowly as possible without wobbling off the edge. We had looked up the Australian records online and noticed that the Junior Female record was only just over 6 seconds and Meg thought she could beat it. I was trying to lower her expectations. I mean you don't go to your first ever competition and expect to break the Australian Record. But she did with a time of 8.08 seconds! I was so excited we had an Australian Record Holder in the family I put it all over my FaceBook. An hour later her new friend Taylah from Northern Queensland broke Meg's record. I was in so much trouble for blabbing early. I'm sorry Meg. Congratulations Taylah!
Taylah had been to UniNats the year before, so she had a heads up on what the events were and what to do. Befriending Meg was probably a bad move for her, because once Meg had the confidence of having a friend to enter things together with, she entered a lot more events and won some of them. To be honest there were only 4 girls in the Junior Female age group at UniNats this year, and one of them was more at the beginner end of the scale and didn't enter most of the events. So there was a 100% chance each of the really competitive girls would get a ribbon in any event they entered. It was just a competition to see which ribbon they would get.
Riding her unicycle to school every day Meg does draw some attention. She gets comments from hilarious passersby who yell, "Hey, you've lost a wheel!". Daily. The same joke. Sometimes kids at school tease her about being a bit weird or say she is showing off. It bothers her sometimes, but thankfully she is mostly able to ignore them, or see it for what it is, a bit of insecurity that she can do something they can't.
Yes, she's a bit "different". She doesn't play tennis, gave up netball after only a few seasons, isn't terribly interested in gymnastics or dance or the other activities that most of her peers do after school. And yet, what an advantage that is. With the boost that comes from finding your own tribe of unicycling friends, she won 7 First places, 3 Seconds and a Third at a national championships, and broke an Australian record (albeit only holding the record very briefly). How many kids her age even get the opportunity to attend a national championships?
In this case, being different is a definite advantage. At UniNats 2017 we met a lot of people who had chosen the path less taken and taken up riding a unicycle. Some of them were stereotypically nerdy. Some of them were as disappointed as Meg about missing Comicon. Some people were bicycle riders who just wanted an extra challenge. Some were parents who took it up to follow in their children's footsteps (don't count on me doing that). And then there were some who are professional unicycle street riders with sponsorships and world titles to their names. They made the skateboarders look on in awe at the Street championships, and were a whole other level of cool.
Guess what Meg is aspiring to now? She wants to be the Elissa Steamer or Layne Beachley of unicycling. Not helped at all by meeting and being encouraged by Australian and World champion unicyclist Ebony O'Dea. Look her up and see what I am talking about. Thanks Ebony! You may have created a monster.
But OK, I'm really proud of my different daughter. I hope she'll keep being different and taking these amazing opportunities.
Do your kids do anything a bit out of the ordinary? What other unusual sports and activities are out there that we may not even know about?