The Divine Grace competition “will help us get closer to the unique nature of rhythmic gymnastics”

In a competition that organizer Alina Kabaeva says will become an annual event, 13 rhythmic gymnasts from 13 countries gathered at VTB Arena in Moscow on December 16 and 17 for the first international experimental rhythmic gymnastics Divine Grace tournament.

The First Divine Grace was no ordinary rhythmic gymnastics competition. Created by Olympic all-around champion Kabaeva in Athens in 2004, the event was organized under the auspices of her charitable foundation Alina Kabaeva and brought together gymnasts from as far away as Australia, Mexico and Canada to offer two days of exceptional performance.

In many sports, rhythmic gymnastics included, a new Olympic cycle is an opportunity to assess the rules of competition and make changes. For the 2022-2024 cycle, the rhythmic gymnastics code of points will place more value on the aesthetics and artistry of gymnasts. The new rules will be inspired by those of 2001-2005, when Kabaeva was an active gymnast.

While the current rules place strict limits on gymnasts’ performances – the number of elements is small and additional complexity discouraged – at Divine Grace, the number of performance elements was unlimited, with athletes being able to show the fullest. extent of their skills and abilities. Gymnasts participating in Moscow were judged according to mixed rules developed from those used in 2001-2005 and the new – Code of Points 2022-2024.

The contest, while aiming to amaze and delight in equal parts, created a platform for discussion. Athletes, coaches and judges were able to share their experiences and thoughts on the future of sport.

The first day began with a visually stunning opening ceremony and a reminder to guests and viewers of tournament host Andrei Petrov that rhythmic gymnastics was officially established in 1934, in the USSR. “Over the years this has become part of our culture and our code,” he said. “Divine Grace is an experience that will help us get closer to the unique nature of rhythmic gymnastics for a perfect balance between aesthetics and performance, past and present, new and traditional. “

The first day of competition was introduced by Canadian gymnast Lori Fung, who won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where rhythmic gymnastics made its debut.

“You have to dream big,” she told participants. “You have to aim for the stars. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. It’s something that’s in your heart, and you have to go.

Canadian Karina Kamenetsky kicked off the competition for the first apparatus, the hoop – like all apparatus, a demonstration of balance, pivots, jumps and flexibilities – with final scores ranking difficulty, art and execution.

Much to the delight of the local audience, 17-year-old Russian Lala Kramarenko, a hoop silver medalist of the 2021 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup series in Baku, claimed an unmistakable victory with 36.65 points. Anna Kamenshchikova of Belarus was second with 32.55 points, ahead of Mexican Marina Malpica with 31.40 points.

Demonstrating a theme that was to run through the two days, Kramarenko and Kamenshchikova also finished first and second in the next apparatus, the ball, amassing 35.30 and 31.60 points respectively. This time it was Ketevan Arbolishvili of Georgia who joined Kramarenko and Kamenshchikova at the top of the all-around standings overnight, also scoring 31.60 for his ball performance.

On day two, Kramarenko maintained her dominance, finishing first on clubs and ribbon, Kamenshchikova maintaining a consistent second place for both apparatus.

In clubs, Natalya Usova of Uzbekistan tied Kamenshchikova’s 32.35 points, while in the ribbon it was again Arbolishvili who took third place to secure the all-around bronze with 123 , 45 points in total, behind the 127.25 of Kamenshchikova.

But there was no doubt who would take the top spot on the podium. With a victory in all four apparatus, Kramarenko amassed an outstanding total of 141.60 points, wowing the judges and thrilling the crowds in the arena along the way.

The three medalists were presented with their prizes and joined on stage by a selection of Olympic gold medalist stars from the rhythmic gymnastics all-around competition: Fung, the first Olympic champion in 1984; Alexandra Timoshenko (unified team), Barcelona 1992; Ekaterina Serebrianskaya (UKR), Atlanta 1996; Yulia Barsukova (RUS), Sydney 2000; Kabaeva (RUS) Athens 2004; Evgeniya Kanaeva (RUS), Beijing 2008 and London 2012; and Margarita Mamun (RUS), Rio 2016.

In a moving closing speech, Kabaeva reiterated her wish for the competition to become an annual event and called on “all of us to make rhythmic gymnastics more interesting, more varied, more attractive, so that there are no limits. Perfectly “.

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