Teen gymnast pushing past illness

Thursday, August 14th 2008, 7:07 pm
By: News 9

By Margaret Stokes & Chris Howell, NewsOn6.com

Tulsa, Okla. -- At Twisters Gymnastics in Broken Arrow a young girl is working towards her dream.

"I work out three days a week, four hours a day, I get sore every day," said 13-year-old Sofia Padilla.

Jennifer Harrington, Sofia's coach enjoys her job, and that has a lot to do with Sofia's drive, and attitude.

"I've been coaching for a long time, and Sofia's been here a few years. She's really what keeps me going at this point, because there's highs and lows in coaching. She's just a great motivator, not only to the others in the gym, but to me. She's just great to have in the gym," said Harrington.

Sofia loves the hard work.

"Because I get new skills and move up," said Sofia.

She says her ultimate goal is to be in the Olympics. But early this year she was sidelined by serious illness.

Jennifer remembered when she started to notice a change.

"She slowly started to slide, and tricks that she usually could do were more difficult for her, she couldn't land. So I started to wonder if something was going on, and then just physically as she was going downhill we knew we needed to look into it and do something about it," said Harrington.

Sofia says she got tired and really thirsty a lot so she went to the doctor and found out she had diabetes.

Sofia's mother, Lindsay Padilla, says she was shocked to learn of the diagnosis.

"When she was first diagnosed she had lost about 11 pounds in 30 days, and she's already pretty small.  We had to but that back up, plus she was so weak for gymnastics she was gone four days a week, four hours a day. Over the summer even she was still rebuilding her muscle and she was in the gym nine to three some days, she was in the gym quite often, so she's back where she was before she was diagnosed," said Padilla.

Now, like other diabetics, Sofia has to monitor he blood sugar levels often.

"At gymnastics I have to do it every hour, to make sure it's where it's supposed to be. At home I do it before every meal and before bed," said Sofia.

"She watches everything she eats. Trans-fats are not in her diet, and it's up to her. She is managing it 100% of the time, so it's very impressive," said Padilla.

Sofia says it's no big deal.

"I just stop and test my blood sugar, and if it's a little low I eat and then I just come back," said Sofia.

Her coach is happy Sofia is back in full force.

"She's fine now so we're thrilled.  She's a great leader in the gym, all the girls look up to her.  She's a joy to have and when you see her at the meets she's really a presence there.  She has beautiful body lines that you look for in gymnastics, so she's a just a thrill to coach," said Harrington.

But what is this little girl's greatest strength?

"Consistency that just really is Sofia. She just puts her head down and goes after it. She doesn't, nothing stands in her way, she has blinders on, whether it's diabetes or gymnastics, that's just the way Sofia is," said Padilla.