Rhythmic Gymnastics: Former Bulgarian elite athlete thinks it should be more mainstream

At the age of 21, Monika Vedrichkova opened Anna’s Gymnastics Academy in London. Having previously represented Bulgaria in the National Team in Rhythmic Gymnastics, and as the holder of more than 130 national and international awards, Monika knows a thing or two about the sport.

“I feel very proud that Bulgaria won gold in the rhythmic gymnastics group all-round, at the recent Tokyo Olympics”, she tells TalksForTeens. The sport was added to the Olympics as an individual event in 1984 and later in 1996, Spain took the first group gold title. Russia has dominated since, until Tokyo 2020, when Bulgaria beat Russia to it.

“Rhythmic Gymnastics is a female Olympic sport that combines classical ballet, modern dancing and acrobatic movements”, Monika explains, “And the apparatus consists of ribbons, clubs, balls, hoops and rope. We do exercises with moving apparatus”. This differs from Artistic Gymnastics, when the equipment (such as vaults, bars and pommel horses) remain fixed to the ground. She goes on to describe how the sport “develops multiple skills at the same time” and how “flexibility, agility, co-ordination and strength” are all needed in equal measure.

In 2013, Monika took £87 out of the piggy bank at home that was filled with coins, and made the decision to put the money towards launching her own academy to honour her mother, Anna Vedrichkova. She found a space in Westminster that she booked for just a month and she printed very simple, low-cost leaflets to hand out outside schools. She was fortunate that a friend was able to build her a website for free.

Now, Anna’s Gymnastics Academy has four sites and is one of only 22 facilities in London. It caters for beginners as well as elite squads of gymnasts who wish to compete at regional, national or even international level. Currently she has an English champion (who uses rope and hoop) and two GBR squad members. Others are working towards regional finals.

In addition to Bulgaria and Russia, all the former Soviet nations are strong in Rhythmic Gymnastics, as well as Italy, Spain, Azerbaijan, Japan, China and Israel. In fact, the individual gold was won by 22-year-old Linoy Ashram who became the first ever Israeli woman to win an Olympics gold medal. “It’s like a dream, I think it’s like I’m not here”, said Ashram after her win.

Monika is keen to see the sport grow in the UK. For this, she tells TalksForTeens, “I would need a permanent facility. If we are going to produce competitors at international level, we need the space, we need large training carpets and the apparatus”. Even at the most basic level, she is sure that the practice sets children up with a good foundation for any sport seeing as it “develops multiple skills at the same time and is very balanced”. Monika explains how because of this, it is mandatory at schools in Bulgaria. She would like to see more young people introduced to it in the UK, as a foundation both for fitness and for overall sporting success.

Suggested links

Anna's Gymnastics Academy (London) (annasgymnastics.com)

British Gymnastics (british-gymnastics.org)

Rhythmic Gymnastics-Bulgaria win group gold to end Russian streak | Reuters

Rhythmic gymnastics upset: Israel beats Russia, wins gold (apnews.com)

Rhythmic Gymnastics | Olympic Sport | Tokyo 2020

Intro to Gymnastics: 8 Types of Apparatus Used in Artistic Gymnastics - 2021 - MasterClass