After their performance in the Five Ribbons event, the team members of the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics group stayed in the “kiss and cry” area while waiting for their scores at the recently held Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, feeling excited for the results as the team believed that they have given their best shot for this event.
The U.S. team gave the best performance that they could, executing their performance very well and delivering a clean routine. For that reason, they were extremely happy when the results came, as the team posted a score of 16.066 in the event. That was the second time that the U.S. group obtained a score higher than 16, along with their score of 16.233 in six clubs/two hoops event.
Even more satisfactory, after finishing with a 13th-place overall, they felt confident that they would qualify for the Olympic Test Event in April 2016. Team members were very emotional, they hugged each other and yes, they “kissed and cried”.
They had no clue that they had already captured an Olympic place for their country.
“I really feel like we were the last to know,” Natalie McGiffert, a member of Team USA said. “We were so happy with our performance that everyone just thought we knew.”
McGiffert didn’t even realize the real intensity of what had just happened until she received a text message from her dad at the time that they were already in their team hotel. The text says: “You do know you’re going to the Olympics, right?”
Alisa Kano, a team member of Team USA was also in the hotel room when she saw the story through an online post.
“My roommate, Monica Rokhman, was in the shower and I yelled, ‘Monica, I think we made the Olympics! I think we’re actually going to the Olympics!’ ” Alisa said. “She started bawling. We all did.”
Aside from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where the U.S. had a host country spot, this is the very first time that the U.S. has got the opportunity to compete as a group for the Olympic Games in the Rhythmic Gymnastics discipline.
The Americans secured their Olympic berth at the World Championships after being the top-placed country outside of Europe and Asia, assuring that there are at least three continents that will be competing in the 2016 Olympics.
Independent of earning the continental berth, rhythmic program director Caroline Hunt said, the group’s scores were strong enough that they were in the running for earning an outright spot at the Games.
Caroline Hunt, the US rhythmic gymnastics program director said that the team’s score were high enough to ensure that they were claiming an outright spot at the Olympic Games next year.
“It speaks to the level of where they are and how far the development has come,” she said.
Since almost a decade ago, the USA Gymnastics and its coaches have collaborated in an effort to improve and remodel the rhythmic program with the purpose of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Training gymnasts to contend against countries where Rhythmic discipline is more popular, like Russia, has always been a difficult situation for American coaches. However, since 2006, the United States has concentrated on development, education, and creating a strong foundation so that when the athletes reach the senior division and compete in the Pan American Games, World Championships and Olympics, the team will have the required skills and talent to compete.
The members of the current U.S. group comprised of Kiana Eide, Kristen Shaldybin, Jennifer Rokhman, in addition to Kano, McGiffert and Monica Rokhman, has been together since 2012. Aside from their success in the 2015 Rhythmic World Championships last September, they have also obtained the Team USA’s first-ever Pan American gold medal in the six clubs/two hoops event and also finishing with a silver medal in the all-around and five ribbons event last July.
Aside from having the required skills and talent to become a leading group, Hurt stated that this group has also displayed a remarkable cohesiveness while performing their group routine.
“You have to be so in tune with one another to be able to handle anything, any potential mistake, and adjust and manage,” she said. “So many things can happen when you have five sets of apparatus flying at the same time and you’re exchanging apparatus, and especially with complicated and challenging routines. You have to be in synch mentally and physically to be able to handle those moments and make the exercise come across as a clean performance. It’s that unique relationship among athletes that not every group can have.”
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