Shelby Kisiel - A Rising American Rhythmic Star

The talented Shelby Kisiel started training rhythmic gymnastics in 2006 when she was already 12. Even though most gymnasts start at a much earlier age (5-8 years) old, Shelby seems to have caught up with them very fast. This year, at the Montreal World Cup, Shelby placed 10th the all around and 6th with hoop. Last year at the same event she was 13th in the all around and did not make the event finals. Shelby's progress is evident not only in these results but mostly in her beautiful routines, full of exciting throws and catches, lots of stunning flexibility and strong choreography. In Montreal this year, Shelby demonstrated very clean lines and wonderful expression with the music. 

This level of athletic mastery, of course, is the product of a lot of work and determination. In order to train at the North Shore Rhythmics in Chicago, Shelby moved to another state and now lives away from her family. She spends an average of 40 hours a week at practice. Here is what her coaches,Natasha Klimouk and Dani Takova, who call her "Shelbinka," say about Shelby on her website. 

“...Shelby is a very talented gymnast‐ 3 years in rhythmic gymnastics and she has made the U.S. National Team… this is unheard of. She has trained in Russia in the Olympic Training Center and has worked with World and Olympic champions‐ she has the highest potential to represent our country at the World Championships and in the 2012 Olympic Games.”

I think this gymnast has a great future and I do hope to see her in many other competitions, where she can keep placing among the world's best. A fun fact from Shelby' s website is her favorite candy: microwaved twizzlers. I have to admit I love twizzlers but it's never occurred to me to microwave them. I am tempted to try :)

While I do that, please enjoy some pictures of Shelby's graceful moments in Montreal:


American Rhythmic Star Julie Zetlin Places Sixth with Ribbon at the World Cup

Last year, twenty-year-old Julie Zetlin became the first American to make the all-around finals at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships. This year, at the first 2011 World Cup event, Julie placed 8th with clubs and ball, and 6th with ribbon, performing what was, in my opinion, a world class ribbon routine.

For her clubs routine, on the other hand, Julie wore the most colorful leotard I ever saw; it really had more colors than the rainbow ;-):

Julie, who is originally from Gaithersburg, MD, trains with Olga Kutuzova at Capital Rhythmics and is also the Pan American champion. Let's wish her continuous success in 2011! Enjoy more pictures of the best U.S. gymnast:


Montreal 2011: Interesting gymnasts from Australia, Argentina and Finland

It has been a while since I have watched a gymnast from Australia live. The 18-year old from Brisbane, Danielle Prince, was certainly an interesting competitor to watch, among the predominantly European gymnasts. She has a lot of enthusiasm and a very expressive presence on the floor. I really liked her make-up and leotards. I especially like the black and green combination.

The gymnast from Argentina, Ana Milagros Carrasco Pini, is also very interesting. I haven't watched a strong Argentine gymnast since the last time I saw Anahi Sosa. This gymnast is very different from Anahi. She is all about being fierce, expressive and dramatic. I am very happy she made the ribbon final where she performed in a black leotard and a bright yellow ribbon (video to come soon). Here are some pictures showing the unmistakably dramatic style of this gymnast.

Quite different from the bright-colored and dramatic style of Ana Milagros, the Finish gymnast Silja Ahonen stood out with her beautifully braided hairstyle and soft-colored, but truly glamorous, leotards that emphasize her beautiful figure. Silja had a bit of a mishap with ribbon that we caught on camera. She and the ribbon had different ideas of how to finish the routine. But she certainly remained very poised and very cute throughout.

Please visit my blog again for pictures of the Americans Shelby Kisiel and Julie Zetlin, Kazakhstan prima Anna Alyabyeva, as well as the Russian stars Lukonina and Mamun.

Montreal 2011: more photos of Caroline Weber (AUT)

Well, I am back to post a few more photos of Caroline Weber from Austria, as promised. I have to say, she looks better on pictures than in video ;-)

Impressions from World Cup - Montreal 2011

I was fortunate to attend the first World Cup competition for 2011 in Montreal. Fourteen (14) gymnasts participated in the all around portion of this World Cup, which made for a short, but intense world cup event. I would like to share my impressions of the event chronologically and thoughts about the gymnasts in the order in which they appeared on the carpet.

We arrived at the Pierre Charbonneau Center in Montreal just in time for the warm-up. Narkevich and Charkashina looked very focused and error-free during warm-up. Lukonina and Alyabieva, on the other hand, ran around chasing either a ball, a hoop, or the clubs.I hadn't realized how tall Alyabieva actually is; she is quite long-legged, too. From watching the warm-up, I got the distinct impression that Lukonina is the gymnast with the most "physical qualities" of all of the participants. She just stood out: wonderful releves, amazing flexibility, beautiful arms.

There was a "funny" accident during the warm-up - Caroline Weber's ribbon caught on a basketball hoop and it took a while to take it down by throwing a hoop at it. I have some video of that, which I hope to upload later.

Now, on to the competition. The first gymnast on the carpet was the 15-year old rising Canadian star, Maria Kitarska. She trains with coach Lidia Joukova in Montreal, speaks 4 languages, and place 11th at the Youth Olympics in Singapore last year among the juniors. She participated in this World Cup event without receiving marks. Maria, who is of Bulgarian origin, is very charming and always smiling. She had a serious drop out of carpet with ball but did a good hoop routine to open the competition and a nice ribbon routine. Below are some pictures of Maria Kitkarska, the new hope from Canada:

After Maria, Anna Alyabyeva from Kazakshtan performed. Unfortunately, in the all around, all of her routines looked very sloppy, especially the hoop and clubs, but even on ball, where her flexibility is a real asset, she looked very insecure. I hope Anna performs better tomorrow so I can post a nice video of her. She did make all finals but hoop, so I am hoping she gets it together. I guess it's just too early in the season for a lot of these girls to be in really good shape.

Next was Viktoria Bogdanova from Estonia, a very elegand young gymnast. Viktoria made the top 8 with hoop where she performed to music by Vivaldi. I really liked her ball routine, too, see below:

The other gymnast from Canada was Mariam Chamilova, who made a number of finals, and really delighted the Canadian audience. I think Mariam has a lot to work on but she showed some great flexibility and some nice pirouettes already. The clubs were actually her best apparatus but I enjoyed the ribbon as well.

After Mariam, the first "big star" of this competition performed - Sasha Narkevich. Sasha started with a strong hoop routine looking much cleaner than any of the other competitors and topped that with an absolutely stunningly clean ball routine which earned her a 27.700, second highest mark in the entire competition. I think Sasha's 25.500 for clubs was a bit too low. Yes, she had two small drops but she kept a really good pace through the routine and executed many of the moves cleanly. Sasha finished with ribbon, my personal favorite routine of hers, where I think she may have been less clean but more expressive:

I am glad Sasha received lots of applause from the audience in Montreal but I think her intensity and technique, though truly excellent, would benefit from more confidence, from the occasional smile, and from showing that she actually enjoys performing.

A "veteran"in the sport, Caroline Weber, followed Sasha. Caroline is truly trying to become more expressive, and her new ball routine, with music from the Pink Panther, is actually working well for her. But I didn't like her playful clubs too much. I thought she tried too hard to embody an image that is simply not hers. She should embrace her femininity more, instead of go for these "childlike-and-playful" or "cute" routines which strangely remind me of Mitrocz. Anyway, I think the ball routine was Caroline's best attempt.

I will continue the description of my impressions with more pictures of Caroline in a couple of hours. Also, after Caroline, the charming Australian Danielle Prince performed in some very pretty leotards, which we also photographed.