A few months after the last Olympic cycle in Rio, more and more Olympians are starting to announce their retirement from rhythmic gymnastics. Early last month, Russian rhythmic gymnast Yana Kudryavtseva has officially announced her retirement at age 19. Last week, it was Margarita Mamun’s turn to be suspected of having been retired, but before that, it was Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-Jae who officially announced her retirement first.

On February 18, the 22-year-old has also announced on her Instagram account her retirement from rhythmic gymnastics. She was born on May 1994 and has spent 17 years in gymnastics. Although not as successful as her Russian competitors, Yeon-Jae who also trained in Russia, has made quite a name for herself which her fellow countrymen are proud of.

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Her agency, Galaxia SM, officially announced that, “Son Yeon-Jae has decided not to participate in the rhythmic gymnastics national team selection process, which will take place this March. She has decided to retire.”

Son Yeon-Jae As A Well-Known Sports Figure In Korea

Yeon-Jae made her senior debut in 2010 and two years later immediately competed at the London Olympics with an aim to be included in the top 10, in which she ranked fifth. In 2014, she was hailed as the All-around Champion after winning her country’s first gold medal in the sport at the Incheon Asian Games. In the same year, she also became the first Korean to earn a world championship medal, albeit bronze, in hoop competition at the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Turkey.

Aside from all those already mentioned, in year 2015, Yeon-Jae claimed three gold medals at the Gwangju Summer Universiade. She is also a three-time Asian Championships All-around Champion, and has won a silver in the individual all-around event of the 2016 Moscow Rhythmic Gymnastics Grand Prix.

끝나서 너무행복했고 끝내기 위해서 달려왔다. 그래도 울컥한다. 아쉬움이 남아서가 아니다. 조금의 후회도 남지 않는다. 17년동안의 시간들이 나에게 얼마나 의미있었고 내가 얼마나 많이 배우고 성장했는지 알기에 너무나 감사하고 행복하다. 나는 단순히 운동만한게 아니다. 더 단단해졌다. 지겹고 힘든 일상들을 견뎌내면서 노력과 비례하지않는 결과도 받아들이는 법을 배우고 당장이 아닐지라도 어떠한 형태로든 노력은 결국 돌아온다는 믿음이 생겼다. 끝까지 스스로를 몰아붙이기도 하고 그 어떤 누구보다도 내 자신을 믿는 방법을 배웠다. 지금부터 모든 것들이 새로울 나에게 리듬체조를 통해 배운 것들은 그 어떤 무엇보다 나에게 가치있고 큰 힘이 될거라 믿는다. 은은하지만 단단한 사람이 화려하지않아도 꽉 찬사람이 이제는 나를 위해서 하고싶은것들 해보고싶었던 것들 전부 다 하면서 더 행복할 수 있다고 믿는다. 그리고 지금까지 나와 같이 걸어준 모든 사람들에게 감사하고 또 감사합니다.

A post shared by Son Yeonjae (@syj0528) on

Evidently, she has acquired so much prestige, but in her retirement announcement, she said that, “I was so happy to be done, and I had done so much till the end. But I was overcome with emotions. Not because I had any regrets. I didn’t have even the smallest of regrets. I am so grateful and happy because I know how meaningful the past 17 years have been to me, and because I know how much I’ve learned and grown.”

She added, “I wasn’t just doing a sport. I became stronger. I overcame a tedious and tiring daily routine, I learned how to accept results that didn’t always reflect the amount of effort I put in, and I began to believe that hard work will always be rewarded, but not always immediately. I pushed myself till my breaking point, and learned how to believe in myself. I believe that everything I’ve learned through rhythmic gymnastics will be valuable and a great source of strength for me as I embark on a new journey.”

And then finally closed with, “A soft but strong person, a simple but complete person. I believe that from now on, I will be even happier doing all the things I want to do and have wanted to do. Thank you to all the people who have walked by my side till now.”

Although this means the end for her competing years, Yeon-Jae’s agency has assured us that she will continue to be involved in rhythmic gymnastics. “As an undergraduate senior, she will focus on schoolwork and may become a coach later.”

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