Remember Your First Live Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition?

Competition is one of the two biggest parts of rhythmic gymnastics, the other one: training. Gymnasts are doing either one of the two all the time. If they’re not competing, they’re training. If they’re not training, they’re competing. And as early as January of a new year, the competition season starts.

Some might think that if you’ve been in the rhythmic gymnastics industry for a while, competitions become routines, just like any other day. In reality, it’s not, and it probably never will. A new competition is always going to give a gymnast nerves, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear.

A new competition always feels like the first.

As FIG’s World Cup series wrapped up over the weekend, allow us to remind you of your first ever live competition, either as a gymnast or a spectator.

The experience is similar in some parts for the gymnast and the spectator, but there are differences as well.

Gymnasts come into the hall two or three hours before the kick-off of a competition. They would then warm up at the provided warm up carpet hidden behind a curtain; on the other side is the official competing floor.

The nerves would kick in early in the morning, right when the gymnast opens her eyes, and would not stop until the whole competition is over. This is why warm up floors are important, which is different from Podium Trainings which are held a day before the main competition. It provides the gymnast a practice space to maybe, hopefully, lose some of those nerves.

This is what the warm up carpet looks like in most unsung competitions:

A warm up carpet filled with gymnasts

How a gymnast does not accidentally catch another gymnast’s apparatus, how one gymnast does not accidentally hit another gymnast with an apparatus, or how none of them bumps into one another, is a miracle.

It’s a testament to how aware they are of the space they’re occupying, and the space their own apparatus is occupying, like it’s an extension of their own limbs. These girls are that great, and this mastery starts at a young age too!

It’s almost as fascinating to watch as their performances on the competition floor.

But, of course, nothing beats that actual spectacle.

Once the gymnast don her sparkly leotard and wipe her hands on a towel, you know it’s show time.

Every single name in the setlist is called one by one to the competition floor. But of course, before this, each coach must already have sent his or her gymnasts’ music to the event organizers so the transition between each performer is seamless. Problems such as a missing song and a technical difficulty would drag the competition so much longer than the usual 10 hours.

And no one wants to stay in the hall for longer than absolutely necessary.

Once a gymnast’s name is called, she is sent to the competition floor to perform a routine she has been trying to perfect for 6 months, or more, prior to the event. Usually you’ll find a towel in her hand, wiping off any sweat that can potentially make handling the apparatus harder. She might toss the towel to the ground or hand it to her coach, walk in pointed toes, chin up, shoulders wide, and totally own the carpet for a minute and a half.

That is what happens before we are gifted by performances such as this:

What we do not see in the carpet are the hardships, the nerves, and the insecurities. Which may even be non-existent for a minute as the gymnast gets into the zone and writes poetry with her body.

As a spectator sitting on the sidelines, for a minute and a half, anything negative isn’t there; there is only art, beauty, and grace.

To be involved in rhythmic gymnastics, we have probably been totally enraptured by a performance we’ve seen in the past. Some people have this story, and they are still contributing to the growth of this sport at present because they fell in love with it at first glance.

Rhythmic gymnastics fans cheering

So many things go into these routines or performances. Sometimes the gymnast wins and that medal gets hung on a precious little space on the gymnast’s bedroom wall.

On the other hand, sometimes the gymnast doesn’t win. But even so, at the end of the day, the coach is going to be there saying that, “I know some of you didn’t receive a medal, but let’s keep in mind that rhythmic gymnastics is not all about that. The experience and opportunity to have competed in another country is a blessing enough. It’s not all about the goals—the journey is important too.” (Bianka Panova, 2019)

The gymnasts would then, after 12 hours in the hall, squeeze into an entirely too stuffed Grandia with their coaches, parents, and other supports, drive back to the hotel for 20 minutes, and finally rest knowing that they are not alone and that they are a part of a huge non-blood-related family who supports them whether they win or lose.

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