Rhythmic gymnast leaves it all on the mat

Sara Flash, Staff Writer

If you mentioned rhythmic gymnastics to most people on the street, chances are they wouldn’t quite know what to think. Brief visions of ribbons, hoops, and music might flash through their minds, or maybe they’d think of the graceful people they’d seen once on TV during the last summer Olympics.
But the rhythmic gymnastics that freshman Felicia Yan devotes her time to is much more than that. After years of routines, hours of practice and lots of difficult competition, rhythmic gymnastics is a sport Yan is proud of.
“I have done a lot of sports, but I continue to go back to rhythmic gymnastics because it’s the one way I can really express myself and let go of a lot of stress from school,” Yan said.
Yan started out as an artistic gymnast, and then became a ballerina, eventually switching to rhythmic gymnastics when she moved to Washington from Arizona a few years ago.
In rhythmic gymnastics, athletes perform a floor routine while manipulating certain apparatus, which may include clubs, hoops, balls, ribbons, and ropes. Athletes earn points for executing leaps, balances and pirouettes and for handling their apparatus well, as determined by a panel of judges.
“I have competed with the hoop every year,” Yan said. “You perform tosses with it and when you throw it up, you have to do rotations and then catch it again. Hoops are just easy for me. I know that the ribbons look nice, but if you get knots in them or anything, you get point deductions.”
Rhythmic gymnasts attempt to progress up ten successive levels throughout their careers in the sport. Advancing up the first eight levels of competition is based on coach discretion. But advancing from Level 9 to Level 10 requires the gymnast to go to a national qualifier meet. Currently in Level 9, Yan has started preparing and hopes to be in the top eight in her region so she can go to the national competition ahead.
“Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport and art combined. You have to tell a story through your movements, but it’s still a sport. It still takes athletic abilities,” Yan said. “Rhythmic incorporates both artistic gymnastics and ballet together, so I think it’s a great fit for me.”