Olympic star impressed with UAE’s ambitions
Margarita ‘Rita’ Mamun, dubbed ‘the Bengal tiger’ for her Bangladeshi heritage, left the judges and the world in complete awe with her stellar performance at the Rio 2016 Olympics for rhythmic gymnastics.
The 21-year-old Russian became an Olympic champion and recently visited the UAE as a special guest for the 1st International Emirates Cup held in Dubai on 12th May 2017.
During her visit, she sat down with Sport360° to talk about her views on the Emirati rhythmic gymnastics scene and future aspirations.
What did you think of the first Emirates Cup?
It is really amazing to see an event of this level in the UAE that provides a platform for rhythmic gymnasts to showcase and hone their talent. We definitely need more competitions and tournaments like these to prepare the gymnasts to help improve their performance and support them.
What do you think of the rhythmic gymnastics scene in Dubai and its scope?
It seems that gymnastics is growing rapidly in the UAE and after watching the performance of the Emirati and Arab girls in this competition, I feel that they have great potential. They are very artistic, beautiful, lean and elegant, and they have a lot of grace. So they definitely have a very good future in rhythmic gymnastics for them. Since it is a very new sport in the country, there is definitely a lot of room for growth for the sport in the region.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
For me, the most challenging aspect of my career has been the preparation for the Olympics because it was not training for a couple of weeks or months, but it was a full four-year journey for me. I was going from one competition to another; going from a smaller grand prix to another world championship. So training for it was very hard and I had to work hard consistently to reach my goal.
What do you think of Lamia Tariq Al Farsi, who won the first Emirates Cup?
She is an absolutely beautiful and talented girl, and her winning an international competition like this is testament to that. I feel that Lamia has a great future ahead of her; I was just seven years old when I started doing rhythmic gymnastics, whereas Lamia (r) started when she was five and now she is six and she has already won such a prestigious competition. Being able to win a tournament like this shows that the girl has proved her mettle. I also wish her all the best because she is really very talented and I am sure she has great things waiting for her in the future.
How has your life changed since winning the Olympics?
Of course, as an Olympic champion, I am now representing my country wherever I go. I have to travel around the world and people know me and look up to me. So now after winning such a prestigious championship, I am not just Margarita Mamun, but I have to act as a proper ambassador for the sport and also for my country. I want people to see me and realise that dreams do come true, but only if we work really hard for them.
What are your future plans?
My future plans is just to keep training, I haven’t quit the sport yet and I am still part of the Russian national team. I have just taken a break after the Olympics as I was nursing a back injury and I was in the recovery period.
But I will get back to training and the next goal I am aiming for is my second Olympics at Tokyo 2020.
How do you stay fit and what is your diet like?
As a gymnast, we are always training so our schedule pretty much revolves around practising all the time. Our diet involves having the right balance of all the nutrients, drinking plenty of water, and taking ample amount of rest. Of course when I am training for the Olympics, my diet and training regime is really intense, but for now I am just taking it easy.
There is nothing really that I strictly avoid eating, I just try to eat more meat and fish to build muscle, instead of foods like pasta and rice. I just try to maintain a very healthy lifestyle.
What advice would you give to young girls who are pursuing rhythmic gymnastics?
In order for girls to be able to cope with the pressures of this sport, they really need to love and believe in what they are doing.
Rhythmic gymnastics is very challenging and most people cannot handle the stress, so you really need to focus on your goal and move ahead with conviction and never give up.