Khaleej Times

Emirati gymnasts are top notch. Thumbs up says world champ The UAE girls have great potential... artistic, beautiful, lean and elegant. These qualities point towards a bright future for the country in gymnastics.

Hurray! Lamia and members of Team UAE impress Russian Olympic star and chief guest Margarita Mamun at the just-concluded First Internatio­nal Emirates Cup of Rhythmic Gymnastics

- Ramdas Volvoikar

World gymnastics stories don’t come much more inspiring than Margarita Mamum. The Olympic and seven-time world champion’s Dubai trip for the First Internatio­nal Emirates Cup of Rhythmic Gymnastics was all about motivation. While the Rio Olympics 2016 showed her competitiv­e spirit which was highlighte­d by her allaround gold-medal win after beating her best friend and training partner Yana Kudryavtse­va, Dubai saw Mamun in a different light as she lifted the spirits of the kids, even volunteeri­ng to distribute gift hampers to the rising stars at the prize distributi­on ceremony on Saturday. “Apart from being an Olympic champion, I am also an ambassador of the sport and it’s nice to see kids showing so much enthusiasm for the game. It’s basically about giving back to the sport, which has given me so much joy and pleasure,” Mamun, who came as a chief guest for the event, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the five-day event at Al Habtoor City in Dubai.

Following her Olympic gold last year, Mamum has been active in the developmen­t and spread of rhythmic gymnastics around the world. Dubai was her first stop – Ksenia Dzhalagnia, founder of Dubai Youth Olympic School Ryhthmic Gym, played a key role in inviting her for the event.

Having seen the splendid performanc­e of UAE gymnasts led by six-year-old Lamia Tariq Malallah, who pocketed 10 medals in the face of stiff competitio­n from powerhouse Russia and 25 other countries over the two days of the competitio­n, Mamun raised the spirits of the kids by rating it as a top-notch performanc­e.

“That’s incredible for the UAE and hats off to the gymnasts. I believe the gymnasts have got the right start and they can only get better in the years to come,” said the 21-year-old decorated Russian gymnast, who has scribbled her name into the record books many times. “The UAE girls have a lot of potential. They are artistic, beautiful, lean and elegant and all these qualities point towards a bright future for the country in gymnastics,” Mamun added.

Margarita Mamun

Olympic star

Mamun, who is also known as the ‘Bengal Tiger’ for her Bangladesh­i origin, reserved special praise for Lamia, who has been the cynosure of all eyes after her second successive gold-winning feat. “I think Lamia is a future star. I watched her performanc­e yesterday and I was impressed with what I’ve seen. And mind you, she has already won a couple of gold in internatio­nal events and she is just six. I had not even started at this age,” Mamum remarked.

Coming from the legend herself, the words will definitely spur Lamia and her cohort to light up the gymnastics scene in the UAE as the sport looks to find a footing in the country.

Born in 1995 in Moscow to a Bangladesh­i father and Russian mother, Mamun’s introducti­on to gymnastics at the age of seven was quite late in terms of internatio­nal standards. However, the late start did not dampen her motivation as her upward spiral culminated with a record-breaking gold after a display full of grace and elegance in Rio last year. The only gymnast to have scores over 19 points on all four apparatus, Mamun created a new Olympic mark under the 20-point judging system with a total of 76.483 points, surpassing the previous score of Evgenia Kanaeva at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Mamun’s heroics also meant former Soviet states have won every individual Olympic medal, 18 in total, in the event since 1996.

To succeed, one must never lose focus, according to Mamun. “I have been passionate about the game from the start. And in pursuit of the Olympic gold, I worked on a four-year plan, which meant my life revolved around training and competitio­ns. To be a top gymnast, the kids must have a dream, they must love the game. They have to work hard and understand that the pressure will be there but they must not give up,” she concluded.

 ?? Photo: Alexandra Reshemkina ?? Russian Olympic gold medallist and seven-time world champion Margarita Mamun along with UAE’s six-year-old champion gymnast Lamia Tariq Malallah. —
Photo: Alexandra Reshemkina Russian Olympic gold medallist and seven-time world champion Margarita Mamun along with UAE’s six-year-old champion gymnast Lamia Tariq Malallah. —
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