She might only be 12, but young Grace McDowall is already well on her way to circus skills stardom.
That’s because she’s already beaten the professionals to an international title.
The Somercotes Academy pupil has taken the world of Aerial Silks by storm since 2016, when she won her first regional title at a competition in Louth.
Aerial Silks is an performance art which sees Grace suspend herself from two lengths of fabric and perform spellbinding acrobatics several feet in the air.
Silk performers put on a show without the use of safety equipment, relying on their skill and knowledge of wrapping techniques to suspend themselves safely - and with style.
You could say that circus skills are in Grace’s blood, as her older sister also trains and competes in national competitions.
What’s more, it’s a real family affair as her mum, Emma Nichols, runs Freestyle Fitness in Louth, where a range of circus skills classes are offered to the public.
Emma said: “It all started off as Grace just coming in to the studio and messing about - we had no idea she’d be so successful.
“Then, in 2016, we hosted a Lincolnshire Aerial Championship regional competition here in the studio.
“Grace found out there was a youth skills category which she was eligible for, entered it and won when she was just 10 years old.
“The most amazing part is that she’d not really had any formal training at that point!”
Grace’s outstanding performance then led to her being invited to take part in the UK Aerial Performance Championship final, which was held at Russell’s International Circus in Mablethorpe.
Again, she blew the judges away with her routine, coming out on top in her category to win the UK Championship title.
She returned to the competition in 2017 and 2018 and on both occasions smashed her opponents, meaning she maintained the championships title for three years running.
Her winning streak meant that Grace was no longer eligible to compete in youth classes - so she decided to enter the advanced silks category of the International Pole and Aerial tournament.
“Her main objective was to gain more experience and receive feedback from some of the biggest names in the industry,” explained Emma.
“Her competition was adult professional performers from all over the world, so she didn’t even expect to finish in the top five.
“Despite the odds, Grace won the category.”
Grace performed and collected her prize in Nottingham earlier this month (January 19).
For proud mum Emma, it’s a joy to watch.
She said: “Grace becomes a different person when she’s performing. She’s simply phenomenal to watch.
“She’s very passionate about it and her dream is to travel the world performing professionally.”
“She’s very goal-focussed and has her sights set on attending Circomedia - a performing arts university in Bristol.”
Emma has also recently organised a Lincolnshire talent competition to help raise funds to help 12-year-old Louth girl Demi Knight, who is undergoing treatment for a Medulloblastoma brain tumour. However, Demi’s treatment will rack up a staggering cost of £205,000.
The competition took place on Saturday January 26 at The Grosvenor House Hotel and featured a range of acts - ranging from singers to contortionists.
To make a donation to Demi’s GoFundMe page, visit uk.gofundme.com/demi-knight-cancer-treatment-fund.