Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Decorated Gymnast Lauren Mitchell Retreats

Australia’s most decorated gymnast, Lauren Mitchell, has announced her retirement which she decided during a recent trip to Europe.

The 25-year-old is only the second Australian woman gymnast to win medals at World Championships, but the first to ever win gold. She made history in 2010 when she became Australia’s first female World Gymnastics Champion on floor in Rotterdam. She is also two-time Olympian, and a 2009 World Championship silver medalist on balance beam and floor.

Mitchell has had multiple successes in a career she started when she was six, but in June 2015 she suffered what might just be the biggest challenge to her career yet. She was withdrawn from the upcoming 2015 World Universaide due to a serious knee injury that occurred during a training session. She was working on her floor routine when she sustained a ruptured ACL, adding to her ankle problems.

Nine months after this injury, she went back to training and even almost qualified for the Rio Olympics. However, Australia failed to qualify for the team event, leaving just one individual spot available for Rio. It was because of her knee injury that Mitchell’s chances to be chosen for that spot were slim, and Larrissa Miller was instead chosen.

On a recent interview, Mitchell said that tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and missing out on a spot at the Rio Games were two of the hardest times of her glittering career.

The Real Reason For Mitchell’s Retirement

Indeed, those were trying times. However, Mitchell said that those weren’t the reasons for her retirement, or the recent announcement that the WAIS gymnastics program would be axed. Even the lure of competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 wasn’t enough to spur her on.

Mitchell revealed that, "It would have been an amazing experience to compete in front of a home crowd. […]But I don't think mentally I would be able to push myself to be good enough to be able to make the team again. I've given everything that I could have to the sport, and I have no regrets. Mentally I couldn't have pushed anymore.”

Mitchell’s Future Plans

“I love the sport of gymnastics and I will still be involved in some way, shape or form.”

After her retirement, Mitchell plans to start mentoring the younger athletes and start motivational speaking not only to inspire the next generation of elite athletes, but also to inspire people in their daily lives.

“I’d love to give back to the community when they have given me so much,” she said.

Despite Australia’s failure to have an artistic gymnastics team in the Olympics for the first time in 30 years, Mitchell believed that there was a bright future for the sport nationally. She believed that there was amazing talent throughout Australia and if they can harness that talent and put it all together, they would go really well.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Former Rhythmic Gymnastics Olympians Surrender Athletic Careers for Degrees

World-renowned Olympic rhythmic gymnasts Alisa Kano and Natalie McGiffert have both aimed for Olympic gold medals before, but it seems like their goal has already changed, and now they’re focused on getting degrees as full-time students at Loyola.

21-year-old Alisa and 19-year-old McGiffert were both part of the American Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team, which advanced to the Olympic competition in Rio de Janeiro after beating Brazil – the host country of the 2016 Games – at the 2015 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

The win earned them a qualification spot for the Rio Olympic Games. It was a historic achievement for the U.S., as it served as the first earned Olympic spot in rhythmic gymnastics team competition. The national team was filled with joy after knowing about the qualification.

“We finished our ribbon routine and we were so happy with how we did that we were crying of happiness,” Alisa said excitedly. “We were so happy we finished a clean routine and everyone else thought we were crying because we qualified [for the 2016 Olympics], but we had no idea.”

Group rhythmic gymnastics is a gymnastics discipline which has a distinct resemblance to synchronized swimming. Alisa explained that it is a combination of gymnastics, dance and ballet with apparatus work. The athletes perform leaps and turns while maintaining full control of their apparatuses. The sport focuses on flexibility and elegance instead of flipping, which is a bigger factor in other disciplines of gymnastics.

After the 2016 Rio Olympics came to an end, Kano and McGiffert both realized it was time to retire. 

“There was such a huge chapter of our life that was gymnastics,” said McGiffert. “There comes a time where you get to the highest point you can reach and you need to move on.”

With their days practicing in the gym long gone, Alisa and Natalie moved on to Loyola, refusing to grab the opportunity to perform with their teammates on the Kellogg’s Tour, which is a national tour that features various elements from both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics disciplines.

“You need to discipline yourself with the transition,” Alisa explained. “Being a gymnast, we never had any homework. Homework and studying is a lot different than training.”

Both athletes have gone through massive changes for the sake of the sport. They both recalled the adversity they’ve gone through when they decided to compete at a professional level.

“We’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I moved from New York and [Natalia] moved from California. We changed our whole lives to come to Chicago and train for the team,” told Kano. “It was a big change in my life.”

McGiffert expressed her excitement now she has a lot more free time to spend. She’s looking forward to making plans with her friends and not having to work them in around her hectic training schedule. 

Kano, currently a psychology major, said she’s looking forward to having a professional career in physical therapy. McGiffert haven’t decided yet which course to take, but she plans to pursue a major in social work. Despite not having any plans to come back to their athletic careers, they still plan to return to visit their old gym. 

Both gymnasts plan to make the same approach on their academics as what they did on their gymnastics training – with determination and focus.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Ballet, Dancing Affects Emotional Sensitivity, Study Suggests

According to a recent study, dancers are proven to be more empathetic and emotionally sensitive compared to the rest of us. 

According to the research published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, short video clips were presented to two sets of people: a group of professional ballet dancers, and a group of subjects with no dance experience. The video clips were silent, black and white, just a few seconds long, and the faces of the dancers were blurred, which made the facial expressions unrecognizable. With no other factors to base on other than the shapes of the moving bodies, the two sets of control group were asked to rate their emotional response base on what they saw on the short footage, whether they find them to be happy or sad.

ballet dance

The emotional response of the control groups were measured by the electrodes worn on their fingertips, which demonstrated that the ballet dancers had a much stronger emotional reactions on the footage compared to the other control group.

“The very cool thing about this study is that the dancers not only recognized the emotions better, but their bodies would also response more sensitively to the displayed emotional movements,” said Julia Christensen, the lead author of the research. “Dancers’ bodies differentiated between different emotions that were expressed in the clips, where the controls didn’t.”

Apparently, this is probably what we would expect from someone who has expertise in what they’re watching. That exactly is the point, Christensen pointed out.

What does this imply? It basically suggests that practicing the physical expressions made the dancers more sensitive to them. And this indicates one interesting thing, emotional sensitivity can be trained. In other words, there is a possibility that our bodies can be trained to be more empathetic through dance and other physical activities. 

dance ballet

Christensen believes that the study shows “why everyone should dance. Our research indicates that dance training might be a way to make you more aware of emotions.”

“You could even hypothesize that dance makes you more empathetic,” she says, “because it seems that you learn to react automatically and more sensitively to others’ expressions.” But this still needs to be studied further, she added.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Son Yeon Jae to Perform at Rhythmic All Stars 2016 with 2016 Olympic Champions

South Korean rhythmic gymnastics star Son Yeon Jae is scheduled to perform with the most renowned and top performing rhythmic gymnasts, including the 2016 Olympic Games champion, at the All-stars rhythmic gymnastics gala show to be held in Korea next week (September 16-17), her agency confirmed Tuesday.

Galaxia SM, Son Yeon Jae’s sports management agency announced that Son, together with Margarita Mamun – the Russia rhythmic gymnast who acquired the individual all-around gold at the Rio Olympic Games, will perform at a gymnastics gala event named “Rhythmic All Stars 2016”. The said event will take place at the Goyang Gymnasium in Gyeonggi Province. 

Son Yeon Jae Gala

According to Son’s management agency, Russia’s Aleksandra Soldatova, the world’s third best rhythmic gymnast, will also perform alongside Son and Mamun in Goyang. Other world-class rhythmic gymnastics athletes, such as Melitina Staniouta and Katsiaryna of Belarus, as well as Kseniya Moustafaeva of France, will also appear at the event.

At the Olympic competition in Rio de Janeiro, the South Korean gymnast acquired the top 4 spot in the individual All-around final after obtaining a total score of 72.898 points from the four apparatus event. Staniouta acquired the fifth spot at 71.133, while Halkina took the sixth spot with 70.932 points. Moustafaeva acquired the tenth spot.

Aleksandra Soldatova was not present at the Rio Olympic Games because of the competition’s two-per-country rule. Margarita Mamun and Yana Kudryavtseva were the two gymnasts who represented Russia, and won the gold and silver medal, respectively.

Galaxia SM also announced that the Italian rhythmic gymnastics team, who clinched the fourth spot in the group all-around competition in Rio, will also be present in Goyang.

Rhythmic All Stars 2016

Son plans to use songs of different genres at her performance in Goyang, which includes K-pop and ballet.

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