World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships: Inexperienced Mumbai Rhythmic Academy team pays for expenses to fly out to Japan

The rhythmic gymnastics team in action
The rhythmic gymnastics team in action
Navneet Singh

The profile of six-member women’s gymnastics team from Mumbai’s Premier Rhythmic Academy will certainly be richer as they will represent the national team at the 38th World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Japan.

The athletes, however, have to pay roughly Rs. 3 lakh each for their expenses as the team has been cleared at no cost to the government basis.

The Mumbai academy gymnasts were the only team during the national selection trials held in September at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex in New Delhi. The Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) cleared the academy team to represent India at the World Championships starting October 27, on no cost to government basis.

India is clubbed in Group 1 with Finland, France, Great Britain, Estonia and Germany.

Rhythmic gymnastics has never been a priority for the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI), said a national level gymnastics coach.

Varsha Upadhyay, coach of the Mumbai academy was excited as her athletes will compete in the rhythmic group event at the world stage. The team will leave for Japan on October 23.

“It is good that girls from my academy are getting a chance to compete at the World Championships," said Varsha Upadhyay. "Competing at the global meet will give a big boost to their confidence as well as encourage other girls to take up rhythmic (group event) seriously."

Collective performances from all six members are judged during the rhythmic group event for the final result.

Although athletes from the Mumbai academy are getting a chance to compete at the World Championships, the selection procedure has raised eyebrows, said a senior official of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI).

Maharashtra didn’t conduct state competition in rhythmic gymnastics either in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic. Without state competition or trials, the Premier Rhythmic Academy became eligible to represent Maharashtra in the national selection trials. The federation overlooked this aspect while giving its nod to the Premier Rhythmic Academy representing Maharashtra at the national selection trials held in September.

"There was a single team -- the Premier Rhythmic Academy represented Maharashtra during the national selection trials," said Sudhir Mittal, president of the GFI. "We informed all the states but there was no representation. Only one team representing Maharashtra was present during the national selection trials. We gave them a chance."

The GFI president said that the federation doesn’t have funds to sponsor a rhythmic team.

“The government didn’t clear the team," he added. "The athletes will have to pay to compete in the world meet."
The rhythm gymastics team girls
The rhythm gymastics team girls

The prospect of the team competing next week in Japan will not be very encouraging as the group hasn't got the experience, feels Varsha who is associated with rhythmic gymnastics for a long time.

“The performance of the team will not be as good as other international teams," said Varsha. "But there has to be a beginning somewhere otherwise rhythmic events will never get a chance to get popular in India."

India will also field Bavleen Kaur from Jammu and Kashmir in an individual event. She will be accompanied by her coach Krupali Patel Singh. The coach is also the chairperson of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee.

Rhythmic Gymnastics team

Aditee Dhandekar, Angelica Camilo Fernandes, Disha Nindre, Janhavi Vartak, Nirja Chauhan and Vaibhavi Bapat.

Coaches: Varsha Upadhyay and Neetu Bala.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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