Competing With World-Class Rhythmic Gymnasts

Competing With World-Class Rhythmic Gymnasts
  • Athletics
  • Life in Setagaya
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Rachel Grantham

This month, we feature Kokomi Sakurai (Grade 7), a rhythmic gymnast who has been training extensively to compete in the National Junior High School Athletic Competitions, where winners at these events advance to compete for Japan in the Asian Games and World Championships. Read all about Kokomi’s journey here.
 

Kokomi Sakurai

Grade 7

Rhythmic Gymnastics

I think many athletes want an excellent outcome from their competitions, and so do I. However, many should realise that you can only get results from practice.

How old were you when you started your chosen sport? : 
I started Rhythmic Gymnastics when I was five years old.


 

gymnast

How did you start and become interested in your sport? 
I moved back to Tokyo when I was five years old. My mother provided many educational experiences to give me some exercise since I love being active.  I tried to continue with ballet, which I had started in Shanghai, but I could not always hold the bar and ran around.  She also wanted to put me in cheerleading, but it seemed like I had a hard time learning how to dance.  Then, I enrolled in rhythmic gymnastics classes taught by stringent teachers who instructed me to use my whole body in a fun way. Besides, the training location was close to my school, so I went there!  


How long have you been engaging in your sport? 
Eight years.


How often do you train, and where do you train? :     
At least six days per week, at Nakamachi Elementary School and Tamagawa Middle School during weekdays. I also train in a  big gymnasium(such as Setagaya Sogo gymnasium) in Tokyo or Kanagawa.


What level of competition do you engage in? 
There are various competitions that I participate in.  I think there are three types.  One is  sponsored by private rhythmic gymnastics clubs, another is sponsored by the Japan Rhythmic Gymnastics Association, and one is sponsored by the National Junior High School Athletic Conference.  Among these events, those sponsored by the Japan Gymnastics Association and the National Junior High School Athletic Tournament are pretty serious. Individuals who win these competitions will advance to the Asian Games and the World Championships.

How successful have you been? Did you win or do extremely well in certain competitions? Please describe what competitions they were. 

I won first place in clubs at the ”Tokyo Junior High School Grade and Event Newcomer Tournament” held at Hachioji Esforta Arena on December 26, 2023.  Also, I placed 5th in the "Silk Cup" held at Takasaki Arena on February 10th.  The sub-theme of this silk cup is "bonds."  When Ukraine was embroiled in war, and the national rhythmic gymnastics team had no place to practice, Takasaki City provided the Gym for practice and accommodation.  From there, the bonds started, and players who are famous in international matches participated in this competition, and the team from Fairy Japan (Japan National Rhymic Gymnastics Team) also participated. So I could compete with world-class players. It was a special time. I am also one of the representatives of Tokyo.


Have you faced any challenges? 
There are many challenges I have met and much more to experience. However, one of the most challenging things I must overcome is showing up, even though I know each practice will be uncomfortable and hard. I go to practice almost every day for at least 3 hours. My strict teachers are very intense and loud, and I do conditioning that makes my body ache. However, I know that working hard to achieve success is not a comfortable procedure, so I have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 


 

gymnast

Do you have any final words of advice for budding athletes?
I think many athletes want an excellent outcome from their competitions, and so do I. However, many should realise that you can only get results from practice. It would be a miracle if you suddenly became really good at your competition. Unfortunately, that usually does not happen overnight, and you must build up your work to have a good outcome. 

 

A final sports quote:

This quote by a famous Ukrainian gymnast, Victoria Onoprienko, is one of my favourites:

"Keep fighting and don't let go even if your heart is breaking."
-Victoria Onoprienko

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