Intensive competitive gymnastics is good for girls

RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS: Competitive sports: Emilie doesn't like anymore

RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS: Competitive sports: Emilie doesn't like anymore

It was supposed to be a portrait of a successful young gymnast. But suddenly the eleven-year-old girl stops. "I'm shocked and disappointed," says her trainer.

Colored letters are stuck on a blue background: Do not come in. If you open the door anyway, the first thing you see is the medals. They are tied to a hoop and hang from the ceiling. They belong to Emilie. She turned eleven on December 16. She likes kebab, the slide in the Säntispark and rhythmic gymnastics. She trains five times a week for a total of 20 hours. She is part of the national youth squad, and in her year she is one of the best. Even if her parents opened the door for me, Emilie's world was closed to me until the end. I never understood why the girl spends so many hours in the hall. In the end, however, I got an idea why her career ended so abruptly.

Video: Benjamin Manser

In mid-November, her world still seems fine. At least almost. Emilie injured her foot shortly before. In her room she practiced a pirouette with the chair in the way. A bruise, says the doctor. So Emilie takes a break and goes to school in the afternoon instead. "It's not so bad for Emilie," says Mandy, her mother, and brushes a strand of blonde hair from her face. She is sitting in the large living room with a glass of water in front of her. Gray furs lie on the designer chairs, colorful toys on the table. Two-year-old Moritz climbs around next to his mother. A wild boy. "Dinosaurs," he says, pointing to the animal that adorns his bib. "Emilie was exactly the same," says Mandy, holding out a little Pixi book to Moritz. She had an incredible amount of energy that needed to get out. First she made the girl dance, then she discovered rhythmic gymnastics through a colleague at work. "Emilie was immediately enthusiastic," says her mother. Her daughter was five years old at the time.

The mother did not know what this sport meant

Mandy gets up and takes a photo album out of the closet. The first pictures show a little girl in wide T-shirts and baggy training pants. Emilie was still training in the club in Teufen. Soon the trainer told parents how talented the girl was. Maybe she'll tell every mother that too, thought Mandy. At that time she did not yet know what rhythmic gymnastics meant for her child. She hardly knew the sport. So she bought her daughter a competition dress for figure skaters, and the hoops and clubs were much too big for the little hands. “Competitive sport was never the goal,” says Mandy. "We somehow slipped into it." Soon Emilie was training three times a week, competitions were added, and sometimes the girl had to go to the gym during the holidays. Two years ago, Emilie and her younger sister Hanna, who also does gymnastics, moved to the regional performance center in St. Gallen. Since then, Emilie's life has followed a strict schedule. She hardly has any freedom between school and training. “However, it was always important to me that Emilie also had time for herself and her friends,” says Mandy. So the girl spent most of the summer evenings with the children in the neighborhood.

Suddenly nausea and abdominal pain

In autumn 2015 it was still too much for Emilie. "My stomach hurts," she said. "I feel sick." So Mandy kept her daughter at home, sometimes for days. If she did go to training, she was unable to concentrate and hardly participated. And in the evening it was difficult for her to fall asleep. "Everything had to be done quickly back then," says Emilie. "That was stressful." During this time she spoke for the first time about wanting to quit. But she wasn't quite sure, it was a constant up and down. Sometimes she changed her mind overnight. Then suddenly she said: "I don't want to stop, you're making me do it." So the parents, Emilie and the trainer Eugenia got together to find a solution. At this meeting Eugenia talked about herself as a child. From times when the native Russian didn't feel like training either. But when she looks at the many medals today, she is glad that her parents pushed them.

Mandy takes a sip of water. "We didn't apply any pressure back then," she says. “If she doesn't enjoy it anymore, then she doesn't have to do it anymore. After all, she doesn't do it for us. " But she and her husband Ronny also wanted Emilie to do gymnastics at least until the summer and bring the season to an end. “As a child I started a lot, but never finished anything,” says Mandy. "I didn't want that with my children." After talking to the trainer, the nausea and stomach ache went away. Emilie was training again. And in the summer after that, she won five medals at the Swiss championship - more than any other girl.

"Never give up when you have a goal in front of you"

End of November 2016. A few days after the mishap in her room, Emilie's foot is no longer swollen and blue. She can train again. After lunch, she ties her hair up in the nursery. She now has more time to prepare. In the spring the family moved to another quarter. The path to training has been significantly shorter since then. "Everything is easier now," says Emilie.

On her desk is a piece of paper, pink felt-tip pen on white paper: "Never give up when you have a big goal in front of you." Underneath a little heart. Emilie wants to join the national team. That's how she tells it. High up in Magglingen, the young women train for international competitions. But talent is not enough to get a place in the group. Rhythmic gymnastics is an aesthetic sport. In an ideal group, all girls look the same: tall and slim. Emilie, on the other hand, is the smallest in the class. And the parents don't expect that to change much. Magglingen will remain a dream. Is that bad? Emilie shrugs her shoulders. "No, not really." You can still compete in individual competitions, she says. And she also plays handball. Every year she takes part in a school tournament with her class.

Everyone does the same thing, and yet each is for himself

Emilie walks to the car with the ring in one hand and the suitcase in the other. Her siblings Hanna and Moritz follow her. The mother drives the girls to the other side of town. While the gymnasts are changing, the parents roll out the competition carpet. The girls train on it. Emilie hugs her little brother. He is not allowed to watch during training. "When the children see their parents, they are only distracted or even start to cry," says Eugenia, the trainer.

The girls line up in two rows. The oldest is twelve years old, the youngest five. They are almost indistinguishable, they all wear black and they all have a bun. Nobody says a word. The trainer, in a blue Adidas suit, white sports shoes, and red-lacquered fingernails, stands in front of you like a commander in front of his soldiers. Then the warm-up begins. The same exercises every day. "One, two, three," counts a girl. Legs rise, arms are stretched. Sometimes the trainer helps. Presses on one knee, touches a foot. A man with a leaf blower walks past the window front. Leaves fly through the air. "One two Three." The hum almost drowns out the girl's voice.

The gymnasts fetch a Sweden box from the equipment room. You put the top two elements on the carpet. They carefully put one foot on the box and do the splits. The girls hold their positions as if frozen. For minutes. Still not a word is spoken. Only sometimes do the gymnasts grimace when the pain becomes too great. "One two Three." The girls exhale audibly, then they switch legs. Emilie puts her foot on the chest, her forehead on her knee. Everyone does the same thing, and yet each is for himself.

The lips pressed together, the head bowed

The girls get tires, ribbons and ropes from their trolleys. Emilie does an exercise without a device. “That's the simplest thing, nothing can actually go wrong,” she says later. But today it doesn't really work out. Emilie evades her colleagues. The movements are erratic and in the end she is in the wrong place. "When will you finally start to make an effort," says Eugenia. Emilie stands between the other girls who are still jumping through the air and spinning. The lips pressed together, the head bowed. If Emilie fell as a child, she bit her teeth. She didn't cry and didn't want her parents to comfort her either.

"Emilie is the most difficult case," says Eugenia. "A stubborn head." If she is not in the mood, only do the exercises at half strength so that it is comfortable for her. Sometimes she loses patience. "I can't say everything 100 times." But if Emilie ever wants, then she can do the impossible. Sometimes she even surprises the trainer. "An absolute type of competition." Eugenia later says that that's why she was hoping for the Christmas show. Because Emilie was already talking about quitting at this point.

Glued over and over with sequins and pearls

The beginning of December. The assistant trainer holds Emilie's face and paints her lips pink. Emilie runs her tongue over her incisors. Then she goes to the other girls. Behind the gray curtain, they jump through the air, throw balls and spin. From a distance they look like Christmas tree decorations. Her fine dresses are covered all over with sequins and pearls. Emilie stands in between. She takes a few steps, evades a colleague and observes another. "Ten minutes more." Eugenia calls the girls together. They form a circle behind the stage. "The most important thing is to laugh," says the trainer. «If a mistake happens, it doesn't matter. Just go ahead and laugh. Have fun!"

One girl after the other is called. "Next we'll see Emilie," says the moderator. She struts on tiptoe on the competition area. She smiles so hard you can see her teeth. "I'm always nervous when she appears," says the mother. “I'm afraid that she will make a mistake and embarrass herself. I know how she would feel then. "

A mistake does not happen to her. But after the performance, Emilie limps. A few days later, the mother says it wasn't a bruise. The toe is broken. So Emilie pauses again. At this time, Eugenia arranged a meeting with Emilie and her parents. She wants to find out what is wrong with the girl and find a solution. “Every athlete has a crisis at one point or another. If you survive this, you get better, ”says Eugenia. “However, it is difficult for parents to assess this. You have to teach them that it is normal and that they are not allowed to keep their child at home. "

Birthday cake and doner kebab in aluminum foil

Emilie’s birthday is on December 16th. She is eleven years old. It's Friday, and actually no big party was planned. After training, Emilie wanted to give each gymnast a piece of cake. But now that she is injured, she has an overnight party with a visit to the indoor pool. There are only colleagues from school. The girls from rhythmic gymnastics have no time. They also go into the hall on Saturday. You mustn't be tired there. Shortly after 7 p.m., Emilie is sitting with her friends in the living room. They are very hungry from bathing. The father distributes doner kebabs in aluminum foil, Moritz gets pizza. Then the girls toast. On Emilie's birthday, on the future.

At this point in time, the parents have already made up their minds. Emilie can stop. During the conversation, they no longer looked for a solution with the trainer. You just informed Eugenia. They sent the letter of termination to the Swiss Gymnastics Association and the board of the regional performance center on the same evening.

Eugenia did not understand the decision even a week later. It is in the entrance area of ​​the sports hall. Mothers scurry past her, the child by the hand. The competition carpet has already been rolled out and the first girls are warming up. But Eugenia's thoughts are elsewhere. “I'm disappointed and shocked,” she says. «I would have liked us to talk about it and at least wait for the holidays. Emilie still had so much ahead of her. It was just getting started. "

One day before Christmas, the parents sit at the dining table. In the past few weeks they have tried everything. Motivate, talk well, talk to the trainer. Sometimes the mother simply said: "Get into the car." Then Emilie was ready to go to training again for a few days. But that only lasted a short time. "I'm going there," she said one day. "But I'm not doing my best." She had never said that before. And something else was different: she stuck to her opinion.

Parents can only speculate about the trigger. You speak of dry spells in autumn, when there are no competitions and motivation is lacking. Or about the criticism, which is sometimes difficult to process for such young girls. But they hardly know what happens in the sports hall. Emilie said very little. "How was it?" Asked the parents on the way home. "Good," said Emilie. In the end the answer became less and less correct. Emilie was thin-skinned and cried quickly. When she was finally allowed to stop, everyone felt better. The stress was gone and Emilie was balanced. "That's when we noticed, yes, that was the right decision," says the mother.

"There is no real reason," says Emilie

It rings at the door. Emilie comes home from school. In the living room she sits on her father's lap. She listens as if it wasn't about her, as if someone was talking about another Emilie. Only very rarely does she whisper a word to her mother. Why did she want to stop? Emilie presses her lips together, looks up at the ceiling. Then she exhales audibly. She has been asked this question several times in the past few days. “There is no real reason. I just don't enjoy it anymore. "

Later Ronny is sitting in the kitchen with Emilie. She carefully cuts off a piece of cake and takes a bite. "She is like me," says the father. «There is only black or white, no middle ground. If you are no longer fully behind it, you can no longer put up with difficulties and injuries so easily. " Only when it is getting dark outside do I see Emilie, whom my parents talk about so often. Emilie who knows what she wants. “Maybe she will regret the decision at some point,” says the father. Emilie looks up from her cake, furrows her forehead and shakes her head vigorously.

She is now playing handball.