It takes a lot of skill to balance yourself on a four-inch beam, to swing between two uneven bars or to slingshot up from the ground, flip through the air and land on your feet. Now try it with one hand.
That's how Tehachapi's Sydney Howard does it.
Despite being born without a left hand, the Cummings Valley fifth grader has become an accomplished gymnast, performing acrobatic skills that most two-handed 10-year-olds would be afraid to do.
A true competitor in every since of the word, Howard 's physical challenges only feed her fire.
And recently, Howard 's amazing courage was recognized.
After qualifying for a spot to compete at the United States Association of Independent Gymnastic Clubs State Championships at Woodward West in June, the acrobatic dynamo tallied up a score good enough to make it to the World Gymnastics Competition in Palm Springs this past July.
She placed 51 out of 69 competitors who came from around the globe, and was awarded the first ever Buddy Goldsmith Scholarship Award for dedication and perseverance.
"It was really surprising," Howard said. "I didn't expect it."
But those around Howard were not so stunned, including her parents Nate and Andrea.
"To get the award was just amazing," her mother said. "She tries hard and she is determined."
According to Howard's father, the Stallion Springs couple knew that Sydney was going to be special about four months before she was born.
That prompted the pair to begin thinking about how they would handle the way their daughter would tackle many of life's daily challenges.
The couple began by researching the pros and cons of prosthetic devices, but in the end, decided they would not fit their Sydney with a prosthetic hand until she asked for it.
And she did ask, just two weeks before her third birthday.
Howard's first prosthetic was simple, a hook-like device that allowed her to pick up and hold objects using the movement of her shoulders, but she could not wear it for gymnastics.
That made turning cartwheels and other basic skills clumsy and challenging, until Valley Institute of Prosthetic and Orthotics in Bakersfield made Howard a special gymnastics-specific terminal device called a tumbling shroom.
Resembling the top of mushroom, the device allowed Howard to perform skills that would otherwise be impossible, for the vault the beam and the floor.
But because the "shroom" did not allow for grabbing or holding, performing on the even bars was still a difficult challenge.
Howard had to adapt, using the inside of her left elbow to execute key skills that required her to swing her body up and around so she could reach the height needed to execute a dismount -- a method she used until earlier this year -- before Colorado-based TRS designed a new prostheses for Howard, which acts like claw or hook.
Since using the device, Howard's confidence has soared, and her coach Dean Archie of Perfect 10 Gymnastics in Tehachapi said there are no limitations on what she can accomplish.
Some would have looked at Howard and only seen her limitations, but that was not the case with Archie who immediately recognized her determination and never doubted Howard's ability to succeed.
"Coaching Sydney is no different than any other gymnast, " Archie said. "She is willing to go through the trials and errors and she knows that there are extra challenges for her. But she looks at like when can I, not why can't I."
It's because of that mindset that Howard's skills have improved each year, reflecting in her high scores, all of which are well-deserved. There are no "pity points."
"When Sydney was born we thought there would be more difficult times for her being a one-handed person in a two-handed society," her father said "But the amazing thing is that there haven't been the downs and she is so positive. She doesn't say 'I can't do it.' She tries her best with everything and she does everything with a smile on her face."
Gymnastics has also fostered Howard's ability to help and inspire others with physical challenges, and she is a role model for them by demonstrating that there are many ways to be a successful.
For now, Howard continues to advance in gymnastics and said she feels that she can do anything and dreams of one day competing in the Olympics.
"It would be fun and a chance to meet new people," she said.
And although she may be small in stature, Howard exudes the confidence of someone 10 times her size, and is proof that you don't need two hands to be successful gymnast -- just a positive attitude.
"They should just try and if you can do it, you should keep doing it," she said.