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Rhythmic gymnast Marfa Ekimova: ‘medals are great, my mission is more important’

“Performing is something that's so different to a normal life,” Commonwealth champion Marfa Ekimova tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA). “When you're in that routine, you're so captivated and you feel like you can make anything happen.”

Credit: British Gymnastics / Simone Ferraro

As her name suggests, Marfa Ekimova’s family heritage traces back to eastern Europe and the teenager herself was born in Russia before moving to the UK with her family at the age of two.

Back in the country of her birth rhythmic gymnastics is a source of national pride with the their athletes having claimed more medals than any other nation (16 total, 10 gold) since the sport made its Olympic debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“Yes, it’s very big in Russia but my parents are actually musicians, with my mum an opera singer and my dad a conductor,” reveals Marfa.

“When I was younger, I was really energetic and they put me into musical theatre and dance to tire me out.

“I’m obviously still connected to the music, as I play the piano and the bassoon, but also my mum and I love to go to London to watch musicals, concerts and ballet at the royal operate house because it helps you switch off but also see the world from different angle.

“Rhythmic gymnastics has become my absolute passion though and I can’t imagine my life without it!”

Helping her sport ‘break-through’ in the UK

Credit: @ekimova.marfa / SportsAid / Simone Ferraro

In the latter half of the 20th century Great Britain struggled to make a meaningful impact on the world of gymnastics, but Beth Tweddle helped begin to change perceptions of what might be possible for Team GB in artistic disciplines.

They have since gone on to become a major force across at the last four Olympic Games.

“With rhythmic you have that music and those elements with apparatus which is similar to artistic, in that they have the apparatus the bars and other pieces, but rhythmic is just that musicality and the motion and ballet that you can capture within 90 seconds on each routine, that's the main difference,” reveals the 18-year-old.

After claiming England’s first-ever All-Around Commonwealth gold medal at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Marfa is seen as a potential figure-head for rhythmic gymnastics in Britain.

“The crowd in Birmingham was absolutely incredible, they supported me every second of the day and it was the best competition of my life which I still think about every day,” she says.

“I keep my medals by my bedside table and yes, they definitely motivation me, but it’s not my only focus.

“Rhythmic gymnastics isn't really talked about, or well-known in my country, but I would like that to change because it’s an amazing, unique sport and I feel it can become something big in the UK!

“It teaches you everything about life that you need, like motivation which is why I think it's so important for young gymnasts to be more involved in the sport.”

Credit: British Gymnastics / Simone Ferraro

‘Olympics – important; growth – of even greater importance’

After Commonwealth success Marfa’s next major target will be reaching a maiden Olympics and her “dream” would be to qualify for Paris 2024, something she would achieve by attaining a top-14 rank in the All-Around competition at the 2023 World Championships.

“I’ve been busy upgrading all of my routines and getting stronger than ever to hopefully qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as it’s my dream and anything can happen, but I just need to focus on my job and do the best I can,” she tells the WSA.

“Yes, it (winning a medal at Birmingham 2022) definitely motivated me even more, but I also love how that and I can impact other kids.

“I want to inspire the younger generation and that’s something I’m really happy to be doing.”

Credit: British Gymnastics / Simone Ferraro


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