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26 Sep, 2009 11:17

Russia’s gymnasts training for success

Russia produces many of the world's best in rhythmic gymnastics, bringing home gold from the Olympics and other top competitions. But how is such world-class talent developed?

A Russian training school in Moscow has a star coach, Irnia Viner, who can spot future rhythmic gymnastic champions from a thousand paces.

“If I told you I choose them by the eyes, would you believe me?!” she asked RT.

“If there's a glint in the eyes, I try to stretch her leg. And then I say to her parents – we could try. Or we could try, but I can't guarantee anything. Or we could try and I think the girl will be a star”

Irina's all time star was Alina Kabaeva. Her performances put many on the edge of their seats. Pictures of her peer out from every corner of the training centre.

There's a potential new star coming through: 19-year-old Yevgenia Kanaeva got a standing ovation at the World Championships in Japan this month, after she grabbed six gold medals in different events.

The Japanese affectionately dubbed her “Kanaeva-san”.

But the gymnast herself says the way to the podium was the second part of the battle, the first was simply getting to Moscow.

“It's hard not only for a girl from Siberia like me, but for a girl from any small Russian town to break through in big sport,”
Yevgenia explained.

“Only those who have patience, talent and a good trainer can make it through.”

It was only after a series of gold medals at the Olympics and the World Championships that the city granted the team their gym. It's two twelve-by-twelve mats which have given the world a whole stellar cast of the best female gymnasts.

Those gymnasts who make it to the capital head for the Olympic training centre. It's here where their limbs are put through their paces. If the girl passes this first test, she's given a two week trial.

No matter what Russian city or village the budding gymnast comes from, she's provided with free accommodation, kit and equipment.

“The state spends enormous cash on us, so when I hear complaints, I get furious! I trained abroad and I know how little is done for gymnastics there,” Irina Viner said.

“They don't have such facilities,” she went on. “Children pay for themselves to get to international championships. In Russia it's all state-funded. So we have to work it off, we just have to win!”

The Soviet philosophy of winning at all costs is very much in evidence here. Five-year old Nastya explains that what she's doing is more than a game.

“My dream is to become a champion and to go to Sochi,” she said.

By “Sochi”, Nastya means the Olympics in 2014. Parents haven't yet explained to her that rhythmic gymnastics is not a winter sport, and so will not take place at Sochi, but if she makes it to the 2016 summer games, her photo may end up hanging next to Kabaeva’s. And that’s a temptation that’s hard to resist.