Who's afraid of Ruben Orihuela?

At this year's Paris Rhythmic tournament, an unlikely participant won the gold medals with rope, hoop and ribbon beating the representatives of strong Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, French, Bulgarian and Italian rhythmic gymnastics clubs.

Some of the forums on gymnastics that I read showed reactions as follows "What horror! Why does HE participate in tournaments?"

Yes, HE. A rising male star in what was always considered an all female sport, Ruben Orihuela beat all of the "fragile," "feminine" and have-been-training -since-I-was-five girl gymnasts. And if you thought that sexism is a disease that mostly plagues males, you thought wrong. Women can be just as unfair when it comes to "protecting their territory." It bothers them that a man will enter what they always considered their own sport. And it bothers them, because he is good!

Why is Ruben allowed to compete?

My answer is "Why not!". Rhythmic gymnastics is not weight-lifting. There is no proof that being male gives you any advantage over women in dancing with a ribbon and hoop. And although males may have some biological advantages over females when it comes to strength, muscle mass or other characteristics, a beautifully executed balance, pirouette or a throw of the hoop is not about muscle, it's about technique. Also, a lot of modern gymnastics is all about flexibility, not a trait typically associated with the male sex.

Ruben has flexibility and technique; he has personality and, most importantly, he has enthusiasm. I am sure he doesn't care whether he would compete against other males, or females, or both. But because he is one of the few males in the sport, he should not be competing against himself, or against a handful of others. Instead, he deserves a chance to compete alongside popular female gymnasts. Like the Bulgarian Biliyana Prodanova, who he just beat on ribbon.

Sexist women in the sport are afraid of Ruben for the following reasons:

1. They are afraid that Ruben will inspire other men to try this sport and potentially create competition for their girls.

2. They are afraid that rhythmic gymnastics will lose the fake halo of feminine grace and fragility that has surrounded it for decades.

3. Most importantly, they are afraid of CHANGE.

But CHANGE, when it comes for good reasons, cannot be stopped. What Ruben Orihuela represents for this sport is an inspiring example of choosing to follow one's heart and talent despite people's general narrow mindedness. I am sure there are other men who may have dreamed about doing the same and never dared to follow through. So,yes, HE should compete.

And I really hope that, sooner or later (even if it is much later) other men will appreciate my favorite sport enough to want to learn it and to want to perform in front of all of us. Until then, I present to you, Ruben Orihuela, one of the pioneers of rhythmic gymnastics among "the opposite" sex: