Podium training kicks off for Individual gymnasts

Kiev – Ukraine, FIG Office, August 26, 2013: In the run-up to the 32nd FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships the first of three podium training days for Individual gymnasts got underway on Sunday at Kiev’s Sports Palace. The gymnasts who arrived in the Ukraine on Saturday took centre stage in the cyan blue venue, taking the opportunity to acclimatize in Kiev.

Among the one hundred participants of the Individual tournament, we sat down with the gymnasts from France, Turkey and Azerbaijan to get to know them better and to learn about their expectations for these championships. Here is what they revealed:

France – Kseniya MOUSTAFAEVA (18) and Lucille CHALOPIN (17)

RG WCh Kiev/UKR 2013: SON Yeon Jae/KOR

Minsk born Kseniya Moustafaeva is coached by her mother Svetlana, a former Belarusian gymnast, and started Rhythmic Gymnastics at the age of four years before arriving in France. She did not receive the French citizenship until 2011 and it was in 2013 that Kseniya won the French national championships for the first time, following in Delphine Ledoux’s footsteps. The 18-year-old gymnast is conscious of her responsibility as the new number one Rhythmic gymnast of France, feeling the pressure, but also benefiting from the support of the federation. The World Championships are the highlight of Kseniya’s year 2013 that has been the busiest of her career so far. She participated at all Grand Prix and World Cup events (except for Pesaro (ITA) due to illness),the European Championships, as well as the Mediterranean and World Games. The ambitious gymnast is aiming for the Apparatus Finals in Kiev. Her favourite apparatus? “I like them all,” she says. “They are very different. Ball and Ribbon are the most difficult, I think, but that’s also why I am more focused and maybe a little bit better.”

Kseniya’s compatriot Lucille Chalopin is participating for the first time at a World Championships this year and she feels a little bit nervous about it. However, the 17-year-old is delighted to have the opportunity to compete in Kiev “at such a nice place” and to gain precious experience. Lucille looks up to Ukrainian Rhythmic star Ganna Rizatdinova, whom she calls her idol.

Turkey – Burcin NEZIROGLU (19) and Elif Zeynep CELEP (19)

Burcin Neziroglu’s talent for Rhythmic Gymnastics was discovered by Moldovan Maya Kondakova, who is still her coach today. The daughter of an athlete, Burcin is a well-disciplined and dedicated gymnast and she participates at her fourth World Championships in Kiev. The 19-year-old gymnast knows the Sports Palace very well from several participations at the Deriugina Cup and feels well accustomed to the venue. Burcin who is based in Izmir is already looking forward to next year’s World Championships that will take place in her home arena.

Less experienced than her compatriot, Elif Zeynep Celep feels the nervousness ahead of her first World Championship participation. The nineteen-year old gymnast from Antalya, who is coached by Zlatka Staykova of Bulgaria, started to practice the sport only ten years ago. Elif finished school in 2012 and practices twice a day since then to make her dream of participating at the Olympic Games come true one day. “It’s a long way, but I work very hard for it,” Elif said.

Burcin and Elif took part in a one-week training camp in Izmir to prepare for the Kiev event.

Azerbaijan – Marina DURUNDA (16) and Lala YUSIFOVA (16)

RG WCh Kiev/UKR 2013: right DURUNDA Marina + YUSIFOVA Lala/AZE

RG WCh Kiev/UKR 2013: MOUSTAFAEVA Kseniya/FRA

After the retirement of Aliya Garayeva, sixteen-year olds Marina Durunda and Lala Yusifova are the new Rhythmic hopes for Azerbaijan. Both are coached by Bulgarian Mariana Vasileva, who has been living in Azerbaijan for the past five years, and while Lala is from Baku, Marina was born in the Ukraine. Together with her parents Marina moved to Cyprus when she was six years old where she pursued a successful early career. However, she was unable to obtain the Cypriot passport and accepted an invitation to compete for Azerbaijan in 2012. Having made her senior debut this year only, Marina won the Azerbaijan Championships in June and impressed with her results at the European Championships and on the World Cup circuit.

Lala debuted as a senior in 2012 and won the Silver on Clubs and Ribbon at the Grand Prix Final in Brno (CZE). She ranked second to Marina at this year’s national championships and together they finished fourth in the team event at the European Championships in Vienna (AUT). Daughter of a ballerina, Lala began to practice Rhythmic Gymnastics at the age of five, inspired by a poster she had seen . She also loves to dance (thanks to her mother’s love for ballet) and proudly talks about her idol Alina Maksymenko (UKR) who she has met on the dance floor at numerous banquets.

“Rhythmic Gymnastics is our life,” Lala and Marina said when asked about their hobbies. Dreaming of becoming World Champions and of participating at the Olympic Games, the two friends do self studies to fulfil their academic duties. The talented gymnasts train together in Baku and when asked if she missed her family in Cyprus, Marina answered that they visited each other regularly. “We are family,” she adds smiling, hugging her friend.

Podium training for Individual gymnasts – Day 2 of 3

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KIEV (UKR), FIG Office, August 26, 2013: Podium training continued on Monday at Kiev’s Sports Palace with Individual gymnasts preparing for their competitions at the 32nd Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships. The event features new as well as established countries in the sport and we had the opportunity to learn about the different backgrounds of some of the gymnasts:

Angola – Anna MPANZU (18) and Nkumba FRANCISCO (17)

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Angola participates for the first time at a Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships this year. The country is proudly represented by Anna Mpanzu and Nkumba Francisco in the Individual category, who won the Gold and Silver medal respectively at the 2013 Angolan Championships. The two gymnasts have only competed in Africa so far and are anxiously awaiting their first major international event. Anna and Nkumba were prepared by Russian coach Irina Voyno during a ten-day training camp in Moscow, where they practiced together with Russian gymnasts. They continued to train intensively in August with all their compositions having been newly created. Irina visibly enjoys working with the two talented Angolans and reports that their progress has been impressive in the past months.

Anna speaks Russian with Irina, which might be surprising, but when she explains that her mother is actually Russian and she was born and lived in Russia until the age of eight, it suddenly makes sense. Anna started Rhythmic Gymnastics when she was seven years old, but stopped when she moved to Angola, because the discipline was not developed in the country. At 14 years old Anna and her mother established a group for Rhythmic Gymnastics in a club in Angola’s capital Luanda and she started training again. Things started moving when the Angolan Gymnastics Federation decided to participate at the Kiev Worlds and a phone call from Anna’s mother to her former coach in Russia set the basis for the cooperation with Irina.

The structure has improved for the discipline in Angola with it spreading outside of the capital now and the country having been able to enter a Rhythmic group for the event. However, its future is somewhat unclear at this point in time and depends mostly on the federation’s decisions after these championships. Anna has made her plans, however. She finished her high school studies and wants to move back to Russia to train with Irina and continue to compete for Angola.

Venezuela – Andreina ACEVEDO MARTINEZ (23) and Michelle Steffanie SANCHEZ SALAZAR (19)

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Rhythmic Gymnastics is well established in Venezuela. The country has been participating regularly in World Championships since its debut in 1993 in Alicante (ESP) and is ranked third behind Brazil and Argentina on the South American continent.

In Kiev, Venezuela is represented in the Individual category by 23-year old Andreina Acevedo Martinez from Valencia and 19-year old Michelle Steffanie Sanchez Salazar from Caracas. Both have known each other for a long time and they have already gathered experience at previous World Championships. While Andreina competed in 2010 in Moscow and 2011 in Montpellier as Individual gymnast, Michelle Steffanie was part of Venezuela’s Rhythmic group in Moscow. She switched to Individuals only one year ago and debuts at the Kiev Worlds in this category. Andreina recently had the chance to spend ten months in Russia, where she studied the language and Physical Education as well as trained. The goal for both Venezuelan gymnasts is to finish around the 14th All-around rank envisaging a 54.000 point total.

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