Russia making right steps to maintain rhythmic gymnastics domination
Kirovsk is a full 1,800 kilometers away from Moscow, but the long journey was not enough to deter Team Russia.
The message was clear: “No talent across the vast country will be left undiscovered,” as the remote Murmansk Region opened a brand new gymnastics school.
Top-class instructors have been drafted in to help young talents blossom into transcendent performers on the biggest stage.
The students, aged three to seven, watched in awe as the current top crop of rhythmic gymnasts put on a show at the school's opening ceremony.
One of the sport's main figures in Russia, Irina Viner, believes it is the most complete lineup she's seen in a while.
“The cream of the crop of global rhythmic gymnastics are all gathered here,” she said. “We haven't even had that many people at the World Championships. And this time we've brought our entire golden reserve of gymnasts to Kirovsk.”
Evgeniya Kanaeva always stood head and shoulders above the competition, winning all-around gold at three straight Gymnastics World Championships and at the Beijing Olympics.
But the 21-year-old is remaining humble despite clearly being Russia's main hope for London 2012 and beyond.
“The gym is great for the up-and-coming athletes and, hopefully, it will be used in preparation for the upcoming Russian Championships,” Kanaeva told RT. “I didn't have such fancy facilities and mats when I started, so I'm happy for these kids. I have no plans for the Olympics yet, because I'm still in the process of qualification.”
The Soviet Union and Russia have always been a world center of excellence for rhythmic gymnastics, winning 61 world championship medals since the sport was founded.
The Russians have also won gold at individual and team events during the past three Olympics.
As Murmansk’s baby gymnasts begin their training, the main players in the world's gymnastics stronghold are aware that maintaining the title as greatest in the world will not be child’s play come next summer.