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U.S. Rhythmic Team Prepares for 2016 Olympics

The U.S. women’s rhythmic gymnastics team faced the 2015 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships with the same mindset that they always carry prior to a competition.

"We went in with the mind-set of just doing our goal, which was executing two clean routines," said Jenny Rokhman, a rhythmic gymnast from Northbrook. "And then having the results fall into place."

The whole U.S. women’s team, composed of six local gymnasts, did that.

The group received a score of 16.233 in its six clubs/two hoops routine performance. Furthermore, in the five ribbons event, the group was awarded with a score of 16.066. The U.S. team was ranked 13th overall with an average total score of 32.299 on Saturday, September 12. They have recorded the highest score in comparison with the other non-Asian and non-European athletes.

The outcome of the competition was a very rewarding experience for the U.S. women’s team, comprised of Kristen Shaldybin, Natalie McGiffert, Kiana Eide, Alisa Kano, Rokhman and Monica Rokhman – twin sister of Jenny Rokhman – who have spent long hours of practice to perfect their routines at the North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center in Deerfield in preparation for the 2015 Rhythmic World Championships.

"Right after our ribbon routine ... we were sitting in the kiss and cry area and we found [out] our score and we were so happy," Eide said. "We were just crying, and everyone was saying, 'Congratulations.' We were like, 'So what? We just did a good routine.' "

The women’s team had no idea that they had just secured an Olympic berth for the Summer Games in Rio next year.

After the competition, the U.S. athletes went back to their hotel in Stuttgart in order to prepare for a dinner with Steve Penny, the President of USA Gymnastics. The team members discovered that they were qualified for the Olympic Games next year as they were preparing for the dinner.

USA Gymnast

McGiffert learned about the Olympic qualification after her father texted her about the news. At that moment, Eide was also in the room with her.

"Her dad texted her, saying, 'Did you guys know that you made it to Rio? You don't have to do a test event [in April 2016]. You guys made it,' " Eide recalled. "I just dropped to the floor crying."

Other team members, Shaldybin and Kano both discovered the news through a Facebook post. An automatic Olympic place was set to be awarded to the highest non-Asian and non-European group, and the U.S. team earned it after being ranked ahead of 16th place Brazil (31.941)

After learning about the news, the team members almost immediately gathered together to tell each other about the news. Monica Rokhman was in the shower, while Kano got too excited and started yelling in the room after hearing about the news.

"We all started crying," Eide said. "It was a good time."

Jenny Rokhman added: "Qualifying for the Olympics seemed like an unreachable goal, but it was always a dream. It was always our dream."

Two months have passed since that very unforgettable moment, and since then, the team became quite busy together with their coaches – Natasha Kimouk and Dani Takova – on working on their two new routines. Since they are already qualified and doesn’t have to compete at the test event on April, they had enough time to pick a new music and choreography.

"It's really nice because it's two different styles that we've never had before," Monica Rokhman said. "One is more ballet. We have this classical music, which we've never had before. It's a new style. The other routine has the music that's ready for Rio. It's really dancy and Brazilian. ... I'm really excited to compete with those."

Gymnastics USA

The group trains two times a day. Each session lasts for about 3.5 hours, with a break in between practices.

"We're all really motivated right now, because we know it's an important time," Monica Rokhman said. "We're all preparing really hard right now for the Olympics."

The U.S women’s rhythmic team plans to take part in the different gymnastics event prior to the Olympic Games. They will face those competitions with the same mindset that they have in the 2015 world championships.

"Our main goal ... for the Olympic Games [is] that we just compete our best," Shaldybin said. "We're hoping to continue what we've done for the past two years: Just complete clean routines without any mistakes."

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