Neviana Vladinova's New Hoop Element

When I first watched Neviana Vladinova's hoop routine in Moscow, I was at the edge of my sear the whole time. The only time when the hoop stops moving is really at this final pose. She had a couple of unclean catches in Moscow, but no major mistakes. 

I kept thinking that the routine can't get any more risky and I really wished she got a medal for it, though the 4th place at the start of the season was a solid start. But there is more! As if this routine needed additional risk, Neviana is adding one more original throw.

It is very cool and it should probably be named after her:


Of course, with this kind of risk, there will be times when mistakes will happen. This just comes with the whole endeavor of pushing the limits. Still, she did at a national Bulgarian competition just now and if she keeps cleaning up this routine, it will really change how gymnasts and audiences appreciate the hoop!

Hoop is probably the most dynamic and versatile apparatus because it is fairly heavy and really allows for very high throws, but it can also spin, bounce, and glide as well as allow gymnasts to jump through it and combine all of these options in a routine. Very few routines actually demonstrate that, but the 2017 hoop routine that Neviana is performing has all of those aspects, at their absolute most spectacular expression.

I hope luck is on her side with the risks. After all, don't we say that luck usually favors the brave!


22 Years Later, the Bulgarian Style Lives and Evolves

Over the decades, rhythmic gymnastic has evolved into a much more physically demanding sport, which is also a lot more exciting to watch. The athletes display both flexibility and strength, more complex routines, new and original music choices, including music with voice and words, very elaborate leotards and make up, even new hairstyles to bring more excitement into the sport.

What has remained the same is the value of strong choreography, original elements and risky, spectacular routines.

In the 80s, the gymnastics of the Bulgarian Dilyana Georgieva was innovative and ground-breaking. She was the first athlete to show certain elements that had not been performed in competition. She was also known for her deeply personal and passionate interpretation of the music, great speed and very clean performance, even of the smallest movements. As many in the Bulgarian school, her technique with the apparatus, especially with ball and clubs,  was way ahead of her time. While the gymnasts in the 1990s and later took gymnastics to an even higher level, some of Dilyana's routines remain unforgettable as stepping stones to new levels in the sport.

So, the two-time world champion Dilyana Georgieva performed this absolute piece of art back in 1985. Notice the speed of the two forward rolls, the high throws, and how the gymnast handles the ball so that it literally never stops moving:

In 2017, set against the same music choice, a modern routine with great risk and a lot of drama takes up the carpet. This time it is performed by Bulgaria's best gymnast currently, Neviana Vladinova:

Same music, different difficulty and different audiences, the same deep passion. And most importantly, the same universal language of sports as a form of art.