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How Bulgaria’s ‘Golden Girl’ gymnasts keep their balance

For Bulgaria’s ‘Golden Girl’ rhythmic gymnasts, this year has been a testament to their ability to keep their physical and mental balance when sporting routines are not routine.
Published 31 August 2020

Source: Ministry of Youth and Sports, Bulgaria

‘It has been a real test,’ says Simona Dyankova, the captain of the Bulgaria rhythmic gymnastics team. ‘It is difficult to keep out sports spirit when there are no competitions. But we know our goal and we are working hard to achieve it. No one in the national rhythmic gymnastics team has lost their motivation. We hope that the normal rhythm of sports will be restored as soon as possible.’

Rhythmic gymnastics became an Olympic event at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. The sport combines elements of ballet, artistic gymnastics and dance through displays of skill in rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Gymnasts are judged on artistry, inherent difficulty of their routines and their execution.. Simona is therefore an expert in leaping, balancing, pivoting and flexing. However, the coronavirus pandemic forced her to investigate new ways to train under the new health and safety guidelines.

“The most difficult period for us was in the first two months when we had to stay in our homes,” she says. ‘We are not used to such a long vacation - the maximum that we usually had before was about a week. But even during these hard times, we trained at home so as not to get out of shape. We also organised joint online trainings. The most important thing for us right now is to stay healthy.’

Dubbed the ‘Golden Girls’, Simona’s Bulgarian gymnast teammates include Madeleine Radukanova, Laura Traats, Stefani Kiryakova and Erika Zafirova. They won titles at the 2019 World Challenge Cup rhythmic gymnastics tournament in Minsk and the 2019 World Cup in rhythmic gymnastics in Baku.

Simona had high hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that were originally scheduled for this summer, but many events this year have been postponed or cancelled. However, the Bulgarian state championships are now restarting, and the gymnasts are set to take part in online competitions where judges will evaluate their routines remotely. And Simona is crossing her fingers that the European Championships will still be held this November in Kiev.

Simona also says sport has been an emotional pillar during the long periods of isolation during the lockdowns. ‘I think that the sport helped a lot,’ she says. ‘It can have an effect when you are stuck inside. But even doing just an hour of training can help maintain your tone. You can also feel satisfied that you have done something useful for yourself.’

As part of her dedication to the European Week of Sport Simona will help broadcast the #BeActive message – which closely follow her belief in the importance of an active lifestyle. Where possible, Simona says people should restore their way of life, including doing sport and exercise outside. 'Many people do sports outdoors with friends - they should not be deprived of these activities,' she says.

She also believes in the ability for sport to bring people and communities together. 'This situation united the athletes all over the world in a different way,' Simona adds, pointing to how different gymnasts from all over the world connected on social networks. 'We encouraged each other. We were interested in the situation in different countries. Now we are all looking forward to seeing each other at rhythmic gymnastics competitions.'

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