Last weekend I travelled to vibrant city of Toronto, Canada to attend Rhythmic Gymnastics FIG Koop Cup 2016 hosted on May 13-15 in Markham’s Pan Am Center by Kalev Rhythmic Gymnastics Club and Canadian Gymnastics Federation.
I have only ever had one rhythmic gymnastics lesson myself, at the age of 5, in my small town in Moldova. Believe it or not it was not the lack of talent that kept me from coming back, but the strict daily training regimen required by this sport from an early age – which my two working parents just could not commit to.
I will tell you more about the rigors of rhythmic gymnastics training in another post, but here are the 10 best things I loved about attending 3 days of FIG Koop Cup competitions (in no particular order!) in all-around and individual event finals – for national and international juniors (age 12-15) and seniors (16 +), as well as in group rhythmic gymnastics and in aesthetic gymnastics.
1. WATCHING THE ROUTINES! With its unique combination of athleticism and artistry, rhythmic gymnastics is arguably the most artistic Olympic sport there is today. Now, of course there are rules (called “Code of Points” which you can find at the International Gymnastics Federation- FIG website), but you do not need to be an expert to appreciate the height and amplitude of the leaps, the control and flexibility of balance and turns elements and the mastery of apparatus handling!
2. BEING PART OF RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS HISTORY! The 2016 Koop Cup celebrated both the 65th anniversary of the Kalev Rhythmic Gymnastics club in Canada and the 65th anniversary of rhythmic gymnastics in Canada! – and (not a coincidence!) – arrival of Kalev’s founder Estonian-born Evelyn Koop in Canada! There are many theories of the origin of modern rhythmic gymnastics (American dancer Isodora Dunkan is one of the names on the list) but there are no conflicting theories on the subject of who brought rhythmic gymnastics to Canada. (It was Evelyn Koop when she arrived in Toronto in 1951!)
3. PRACTICING MY GYMNASTICS PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS. Probably because of the lack of lighting and the quick succession of elements it was much harder to take quality photos than I expected. It is especially challenging to capture dynamic elements – leaps and turns – at the height of the moment (so to speak)! With the editing help of my husband Vit (blog photographer) I am proud to present several of my own photos.
(many photos in this post -where indicated- are authored by multi-talented Alex, ballet master/choreographer of Trillium Gymnastics Club of Toronto).
4. DISCUSSING THE CODE OF POINTS WITH THE JUDGE! Yes, I read the Code of Points as I was getting ready for the Koop Cup! But I was also lucky to have the opportunity to discuss the correct body positions with international judge Alina Iampolsky-Revenko of Luxembourg Rythmo-Cats Gymnastics Club. (See my “Good to Know” notes on Rhythmic Gymnastics judging at the end of the post).
5. MEETING GYMNASTICS STARS! Russian and Ukrainian gymnasts dominate the podium at the international competitions and there were no surprises in Toronto with Ekaterina Selezneva (Russia) winning the all-around gold and Anastasiia Mulmina (Ukraine) winning silver. Bronze medal went to Dora Vass of Hungary, appearing in her last competitive event. Individual event golds went to Mulmina (hoop and clubs), Carmel Kallemaa of Estonia (ball) and Selezneva (ribbon).
Junior all-around gold went to Natalie Garcia-Munez of Canada while Elizaveta Iampolskaia of Luxembourg took silver and Sophie Crane of Canada won the bronze. In event finals, Garcia-Munez received two more gold medals (rope and hoop), with Guilliana Andrea Cusnier of Puerto Rico winning ball exercise and Sophie Crane taking the junior clubs title.
6. SEEING THE NEW FACES OF RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS. Gymnasts of 14 countries participated in the Koop Cup. It was great to see the “newer” faces on international rhythmic gymnastics scene (from South Africa, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico to name a few) – bringing new energy and often contributing the elements of their own style. As the head of Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation Albina Deriugina told me in our blitz interview, “There is currently a boost in development of rhythmic gymnastics teams all over the world!”
7. MEETING GYMNASTICS LEGENDS! I was very lucky to meet (and talk to!) several gymnastics legends in Toronto: Albina Deriugina, the head of Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation and founder of the world famous gymnastics school carrying her name, as well as Evelyn Koop, the godmother of Canadian gymnastics; and the meet director Janika Moelder (1989 World Champion in Groups, founder of Rhythmic Gymnastics Club “Janika” in Tartu, Estonia, and special events director for Kalev Toronto).
8. MEETING GYMNASTICS OFFICIALS and discussing the future of rhythmic gymnastics in North America with Slava Korn (Vice President of International Gymnastics Federation) and Teresa Orr (National Team Director for Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics).
(Stay tuned for my story on Rhythmic Gymnastics in North America!)
9. SHARING TEARS with Dora Vass (38-time Hungarian national champion) following her last competitive performance! Dora has chosen Koop Cup to be the last event of her athletic career.
10. SEEING THE HAPPY FACES. Rhythmic gymnastics requires enormous concentration and it is amazing that many gymnasts were able to also share the joy of performance with the audience! As Evelyn Koop told me, she noticed a big difference in the number of smiling faces compared to the first Koop Cup she organized 16 years ago!
Next: I am heading to USA Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Providence, Rhode Island on June 10-12. More about this event coming up on the blog soon!
A Word on Judging and Scoring:
There are 2 judging panels at rhythmic gymnastics competitions:
Difficulty (D) panel assess “difficulty” elements of the routine (max score is 10): body difficulty elements (leaps, balances, rotations) as coordinated with apparatus handling/fundamental technical elements specific for each apparatus (hoop, clubs, ribbon and rope); dance sequences and dynamic elements with rotations and throws.
Execution (E) panel is looking at artistic (composition unity, music/movement unity, presentation, use of space etc) and technical faults (incorrect shape of the element) which are deducted from base execution score of 10.0.
The final ‘D’ score and final ‘E’ score are added together to give a total maximum score of 20 marks.
What is a good score? Maximum score at the Koop Cup was 18,333 by Ekaterina Selezneva, Russia for her hoop routine in the all-around competition. (In general, senior winners in each event scored above 17 and juniors above 14).
In group exercise (same five apparatuses or a two-three combination), the difficulty element is counted only if all five gymnasts perform it correctly; there is a concept of exchange of apparatus between the group members (5 difficulties have to be with exchange, five without) as well as elements with collaboration among gymnasts (minimum six such elements are required).