LONDONDERRY — She's young, driven and has overcome life obstacles to be a champion when it comes to gymnastics.
Amina Dallahi, 13, earned many medals for her rhythmic gymnastics talent in the Massachusetts Special Olympics summer games held earlier this month at Harvard University.
The Londonderry middle-schooler is not only a champion in the eyes of her family and in the gymnast world, she is also a true champion when it comes to the relationship forged with coach and friend Barbara Woo of Woo's Kickboxing Academy in Londonderry.
It's "Team Woo" all the way, as the two have now become a formidable team in every sense of the word.
For Woo, it's a chance to personally coach someone with a true joy of learning and being the best.
Amina has had some tough years, according to her mother, Jeanne Dallahi.
The young girl loved gymnastics and started taking classes at the age of 2, a perfect choice for activity according to Jeanne, as Amina, with her Down syndrome, needed to keep up muscle tone, coordination and balance.
The gymnastics classes also gave Amina a chance to interact with others socially.
But then in 2008, right before Amina turned 4, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She began a 25-month regimen of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, surgeries and many side effects.
She missed an entire year of school due to her illness.
During that time, Amina continued to maintain as much strength and support as she could, working with speech and physical therapists but was anxious to get back to the floor.
"She was ready to go back to gymnastics," Jeanne said.
In 2012, when Amina turned 8, she became eligible to compete in Special Olympics, but New Hampshire's program didn't offer gymnastics as a sport. That led Amina to Massachusetts where she competed in games there as an independent athlete, earning many honors for her gymnastic talents and routines.
As she progressed, Amina took on more of her own creativity and ideas for doing her routines, including incorporating her own choreography.
"She did great," her mother said.
As someone with Down syndrome, Amina also had certain limitations when it came to performing various tumbling and gymnastic movements, Jeanne said.
Any sport that bears weight on a young athlete's neck or spine could pose some risk, Jeanne added.
That led The Dallahi family to Woo, an accomplished trainer, fitness coach and dancer, that took on young Amina as her one-to-one coach and supporter.
"We heard amazing things about Barbara Woo," Jeanne said. "And Amina lights up when she comes to see her."
Woo said she had never taken on a student one-on-one like Amina, but had taught special needs students before in various classes at her Londonderry kickboxing/martial arts studio.
Woo saw Amina's determination to succeed and how much she has overcome. She said she jumped at the chance to teach the young girl all about strength, support and teamwork.
"And she's got the arts in her heart," Woo said.
The pair started training in rhythmic gymnastics, a less strenuous type of sport, that would bear less weight on Amina's body and would not require any extensive tumbling.
Amina trained in various categories using apparatus like ribbons, hoops and other rhythmic equipment for her routines.
Woo said in addition to the specific gymnastic training, she works with Amina to build her cardio endurance and all-around stamina and fitness.
The two spend time during training sessions having friendly "fights" using foam swords, running laps around the studio, or jumping rope.
To prepare for the most recent Special Olympics summer games in Massachusetts, Woo said she and Amina had access to various online tutorials and training videos that showed young athletes all the routines, music and visuals they needed to prepare for competition.
"They give you everything you need," Woo said.
And at the summer games, it was "Team Woo" all the way.
Amina scored high in her categories and age group, earning gold medals in different rhythmic gymnastics categories and an all-around gold honor.
"It was just the two of us out there," Woo recalled. "And (Amina) rose to the occasion."
Woo said when Amina took to the floor, it was amazing.
"She never looked at me once, she was staying in the music, it was unbelievable," Woo said. "All four of her routines were spot on."
For Amina, having Woo in her life is awesome.
"She's a good teacher," she said.
It's a relationship that continues to grow, Woo said, with Amina often teaching her own instructor many life lessons. Woo also credits mother Jeanne for building her daughter's confidence and passion for dance, gymnastics and confidence.
"She's a great mother who keeps her very active," Woo said.
As for Amina, it's a given that this bond will stay intact, Woo added.
"I've made a very good friend," she said.