rhythmic gymnastics
Story of success

USA NATIONAL TEAM
VICTORIA KOBELEV

At the beginning of the year 2009, my parents put my sister and me into rhythmic gymnastics after attempting artistic gymnastics and ballet. We were 5 ½ when we went to our first class in the club World Rhythmics. I did not have any sort of flexibility, strength, or coordination. I was normal, I did not have extra flexibility. I did not particularly like it at first or enjoy it because I had to stretch, learn to do splits, and build strength which was difficult and painful. I needed to take extra time on ballet technique, balance, and flexibility. I had extra classes and more hours of training. With time, I developed skills and was able to show off my new elements. This was when I began to love rhythmic gymnastics and take pleasure in the training. As levels increased, I improved, and expectations developed. 

In level 6, my sister decided to quit the sport due to a lack of interest and desire to continue. Training and competing without my sister was different mentally because of the fact that I would have to be on my own. However, I quickly adjusted. I continued to train, and my parents and I became more involved in the sport. I started setting goals for myself like performing clean routines and winning first place. I constantly strived to do my best and be the best. In level 7, I became a state and regional champion and had other fortunate competitions. After the level 7 competition season came to an end, I and my parents thought I was ready to take on level 9 by skipping level 8. Also, we had a very negative relationship with my coach at that time and that was stopping me from being happy during training and just enjoying the sport.

In 2015, we decided to switch gyms. We looked at different gyms around Florida based on their quality of gymnasts and decided to go to Rhythmic Art. In my case, I lived in Palm Coast FL and the gym we were considering moving to was in Dania Beach FL, 4 hours away. Due to not being home during the whole week, I would have to convert to Online school. Before taking this big step, I needed to be positive I would want to sacrifice all this and commit fully to rhythmic gymnastics. Not only was I sacrificing things, so were my parents and my sister. I knew I wanted to achieve something in this sport, therefore I decided to give it a try. 

My schedule was Monday-Wednesday training at home with Elena through facetime. On Thursday, my mom and I would drive 4 hours to the gym and stay there till Saturday. After Saturday training, we would drive 4 hours back home. It was not an option for my family to move to Dania because my parents own 2 businesses back at home. 

Elena decided to put me in level 9 and I started training for the season. I did not qualify for level 10 during my first year of level 9. In 2017, at national qualifiers, I made the top 25. I made level 10 and qualified to compete at the USA National Championships. I performed well, however, I did not make national team. From experience and time, I would say level 10 senior is when rhythmic gymnastics actually starts, everything else is just preparation for that moment. For the next coming season, my goal and my coaches’ goal was to make a junior national team. We were prepared, and we were ready physically for nationals. Unfortunately, in the hoop, I ended without the equipment. It was going perfectly, everything was going right. On my very last catch, I dropped the hoop out of bounce and ended without it. After this routine, I could not pull myself together. The ball was very messy in the body difficulties and elements, Clubs had 5 big drops, the ribbon was very messy as well. I did not make the national team. It was a disaster and there is no one to blame but myself. This was the biggest downfall of my sports career. It felt like my life was over. I let down my coach, my parents, and myself. I was extremely disappointed and so was everyone else. I felt like all my hardship was entirely pointless. I was in shock. I felt like a loser. I personally wanted to quit. My parents kind of gave up on me and I think what helped me the most during this time was the support, encouragement, and guidance from my coach Elena.

During the rest of the summer, I needed to find out why what happened at Nationals happened. I soon realized that my mindset at the competition was the problem. I needed everything to be perfect and to go perfectly. If one thing went wrong, in my mind I thought the routine was instantly terrible and there is no point in recovering. As I said before, at Nationals, on my very first routine I dropped the very last risk. My score was still not bad, however, in my mind I already lost the entire competition. I gave up after the very first routine. That is why I could not recover during my next three performances. I was physically ready, but mentally unprepared. It was struggling to come to terms with my wrongful mindset and begin changing something about the way I train.

Meanwhile, I was also having internal issues between my parents, my coach, and me. My parents were very involved in my training and in the way I performed. They would watch me train and if I was doing something, not to my 100%, they would be unhappy with me. If my routines had easier elements than others, they felt like I should do better. This made it hard to listen to my coach and do what she says because I was not sure who to listen to, and I did not want to upset anybody. At competitions, there were expectations from my coach and my parents, however, my parent’s expectations affected me negatively by making me more nervous and scared to disappoint them. Obviously, due to this, it would mentally bring me down and I would not perform at my max. All I could think about was, “How do I make them proud of me,” and, “Will they be mad if I drop.” Thinking like this made me realize I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore, I was doing it for them, and I wasn’t enjoying it. Hence, I decided to change that and talk to them. I know that parents only do this because they care so much and maybe a little too much. They just want what is best for their children and want them to succeed in everything they do. I have everything to thank my parents and they are an essential part of my team. 

Our next upcoming important competition was Challenge 2019. There, we had to get noticed and show myself differently than I did at Nationals 2018. To change the way I thought about competing and training I needed to stop thinking about the bigger picture and focus on the details. I needed to think about what I am doing right this second and at this very moment. Worrying about the whole routine in general and the outcome of the competition was not doing me any good. Something had to change or the results we are the same. Elena and I trained every day with a goal and would not leave training until we accomplished it. On hard days, when everything would just not go right, it took much longer to complete our plan. There were tears and anger. It was mentally and physically exhausting, but it was needed. 

We came to Challenge in shape and ready. I got first place in my group and second out of all juniors in America. This was the result we were going for. Soon after, I was assigned to my very first few FIG international competitions to represent the USA. I was so happy that the work my coach and I put into training and preparation finally paid off. Mentally, I had a great confidence boost and was more motivated to keep working hard. We traveled and competed in Portugal and France, which went by pleasing. Afterward, I was assigned to represent the USA in the Junior Pan American Games in Mexico. I did all four clean routines in the all-around competition and excelled to all 4 finals, where I did only one drop in clubs. It was an amazing experience. Right after we finished the Pan American Games we flew straight to Poland, which was another one of my assignments.
Lastly, the USA National Championships came along. I remember my feeling before going out on the carpet. I was focused, serious, but I was not scared. I was so confident and assured that I would do it well, that the whole time I was just enjoying the moment. Traveling so much and competing at competitions one after another definitely helped me learn how to behave and build my mindset. At nationals, I did 4 clean routines and got second place. I had finally made the National Team! However, I could not celebrate just yet, I had gotten into all 4 finals, which were taking place to pick out who would represent the USA in the 1st Junior World Championships in Moscow, Russia. I did 3 clean routines and only dropped once in a ribbon. At this point of the competition I was not nervous at all, I was just having fun. During the awards ceremony, they announced I was picked to perform my club’s routine and be an extra for ribbon at the world championships. This was just a huge win for me. I made the national team and was selected to represent the USA in the 1st Junior World Championship. I could not be happier!

It was summer, and we began getting ready for the World Championships. I only trained clubs and ribbon. In my first practice, I would do 2 clean routines for clubs and two clean routines for a ribbon. In my second training of the day, I would do that all over again. Soon, it was time to fly to Russia. We trained there for 4 days and I competed on the 5th day. The venue of the competition was out of this world. I practically had my own carpet to train and run routines with music before going out. I felt great, I was confident, and the nerves were not there. In a while, I was on deck. Still feeling fine, everything was going well. When my name was called, and I had to go out into the big arena, with thousands of people, cameras following you, and lights so bright it felt blinding. I was a little shocked, I was instantly nervous and kind of shaking. I felt uncomfortable. I never felt this type of feeling before. However, I took a deep breath, told myself to pull it together, and just have fun. That was exactly what I did. My routine was clean, filled with expression and I was focused. I placed 13th in clubs against the best juniors from around the world. I thought that was my last competition of the season. I came back to the gym and we started learning new Senior routines and I stopped training my junior routines. However, soon I got assigned to represent the USA in AEON Cup, held in Japan. 

I was speechless. I could not believe I was going to a Team World Cup in Japan, along with Laura Zeng (2016 Rio Olympics), and Lily Mizuno (Top Senior National Team Member). I had to get to training my junior routines straight away. After not training them for about 2 months it was difficult to get back into top shape. Japan was an opportunity of a lifetime. We were treated like royalty there. We stayed in three luxury hotels, they did our makeup, the competition organization was the best, they took us to see the Olympic venue and Disney World and held a wonderful Japanese style banquet. The time difference was 13-hours, it took time to get used to it, but that was the only challenge of the trip. The training and competition went by great. After competing at big competitions and small local competitions. I noticed and felt a huge difference. The pressure, people, expectations, and excitement is heightened. For me personally, I loved it. I was so grateful to have been given this gift and it was certainly an experience I will never forget. 

As of right now, 2019 was the year everything changed, and it was by far my favorite year of my life. I made so many memories that I will have with me forever. I have spent my whole life to achieve where I am at right now. I know from experience that it does not happen right away, it takes time. Its not always bright and sunny, bad things will happen so you could learn from them and come out stronger. Elena and I are a team and because of her knowledge, hard work, and perseverance we have fulfilled our goals. Success is never accomplished without failure. No one ever makes it as one, victory is made with the help of others. It is essential to have a positive team made up of supporting parents, compassionate coaches, and hardworking athletes. Opportunities come from hard work, dedication, and determination. I hope to continue improving and working to succeed.


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