Leadership Change in Bulgaria: the New, the Old and the Same Old

Bulgaria's national team coach Iliana Raeva recently resigned from her position as head coach but would most likely become the president of Bulgaria's rhythmic gymnastics federation. She will replace Maria Gigova who headed the federation for decades. For those who are too young to know who Gigova is, she was a triple world champion in the late 60's and early 70's. Here is a beautiful reminder of what gymnastics looked like back then:

Although Iliana Raeva is much younger than Gigova, her methods and views of gymnastics are the same. Both Gigova and Raeva have repeatedly denied Neshka Robeva's contributions to Bulgarian sports and the two of them became responsible for kicking Lili Ignatova out of the national gym while Lili was head coach. Maria Gigova was among the critiques of Silvia Miteva, too, but once Miteva left "Levski" to join Raeva's club, Gigova and other federation members finally acknowledged Silvia's progress and accepted the fact that she was the best Bulgarian gymnast. For years many coaches, from Robeva, to Dukova (Simona Peycheva's coach) to Raeva herself had complained that the federation is not doing enough to support the gymnasts. Raeva even went ahead and declared in front of the media that the national team was forced to stay in a cheap hotel "with prostitutes" right before competition.

This change of leadership, thus, was much desired. Raeva may very well do a better job than Gigova as an administrator but one thing will not change and that is the main method for selecting national team members: nepotism. We will also keep seeing Robeva shunned and gymnasts from Levski like Neviana Vladinova, will likely continue to be denied a spot on the team. Not unlike Bulgarian politics, gymnastics will let us see some new faces and the same old games.