Frannie Ronan smiles, lifts her hands and shows off the callouses just below her fingers.
She’s a gymnast and athletes love to display how hard they’ve been working on their skills.
Mom Becky Ronan and Frannie laugh together and note that they’re thrilled the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games are just around the corner. Frannie, who has Down syndrome, will be the youngest athlete in the competition at age 8 and the Kirkland resident can’t contain her energy.
“I feel so happy about it when I do everything. Beam, bars, vault and floor,” she said.
Her favorite event is the bars, “when I swing. It’s fun.” The balance beam is a tricky event, Frannie said, and she practices on her portable beam at home — going forwards, backwards and turning.
“Watching her at practice every week, there’s skills that I know that she wants to have and I see her keep working at them until she gets them,” Becky said of workouts at the Seattle Gymnastics Academy.
The Special Olympics opening ceremony will take place July 1 at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium and gymnasts will spring into action July 2 at Seattle Pacific University and complete their journeys on the four events July 5. All sports, from soccer to swimming to basketball and much more, will conclude July 6.
Frannie turned 8 last September and reached the age to participate in the individual sports at the Special Olympics. She qualified at the state meet in December and learned of her selection to the team during an assembly Jan. 5 at St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic School in Bellevue.
At the surprise announcement in front of the whole school, several Seattle Sea Gals were in attendance along with local law enforcement officers, including Redmond Police Department Lt. Erik Scairpon. The RPD member appeared with Frannie and former Seattle Sonic Luke Ridnour in a “Do You Have Game?” Special Olympics commercial.
Frannie, who will enter the third grade in the fall, said it was exciting to have her friends cheering at the assembly.
On winning several medals at the qualifier, including a gold on vault and a silver overall, said she loves her shiny awards.
Scairpon and his family have gained inspiration from Frannie’s achievements and are excited to see her participate in the Special Olympics.
“Frannie is about the same age as my daughter and loves many of the same things — soccer and gymnastics to name a few. Like so many Special Olympics athletes like her, I am impressed with her commitment and focus,” Scairpon said. “I’ve been a passionate supporter of Special Olympics for over 20 years and strongly identify with the mission of acceptance and inclusion. With athletes like Frannie, it’s an easy cause to get behind.”
Frannie began her gymnastics career three years ago at My Gym in Bellevue and became hooked on the sport, said Becky, whose husband Michael Ronan sits on the board of Special Olympics Washington and USA Games and is part of the group that presented the bid four years ago to bring the event to Seattle this summer.
The Level 1 gymnast joined the Seattle Gymnastics Academy when she became eligible for the Special Olympics national games. She formerly participated in the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program, an inclusive skills-building program for kids ages 2-7 with and without disabilities.
“She’s just gaining strength and balance and coordination and having a great time with her teammates. It’s a been a lot of fun to see her progress. She has to learn the four events. They have specific routines that she’s had to memorize and she’s done that and just really enjoys it a lot,” said Becky, adding that Frannie brings tons of enthusiasm to her craft.
When she’s not in gymnastics mode, Frannie spends her time playing games, singing along to musicals — her current favorite is “Annie” — playing piano, going to the park and playing with her friends and two dogs — Roxie, a Yorkshire Terrier, and Chris, a French bulldog.
Come July 2, she’ll be sporting her team red, black and white leotard and tackling her events at the games.
“Just from being a part of Special Olympics and being able to participate and compete in a meaningful way is great for her confidence,” Becky said. “She had a couple TV interviews and she just has a confidence about her that I think that you can attribute in part to her participation in Special Olympics.”