SEA Games: Rhythmic gymnastics team overcome injury setback to clinch bronze

The Singapore team in action during the SEA Games rhythmic gymnastics mixed apparatus final on Aug 28, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

KUALA LUMPUR - Two weeks ago, the national rhythmic gymnastic team's SEA Games plans were thrown into disarray.

Team member Lyn Yeo had injured her knee during training, and had to withdraw from the competition.

While they had reserve Avryl Tan as her replacement, it meant that the 16-year-old had to learn the team's routine, practise and perfect their coordination - all within an extremely short time frame.

Despite the rushed preparations, the team will not be going home empty-handed, as they clinched a bronze medal in the group mixed apparatus (two ropes, three balls) competition at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre yesterday.

The team - comprising Avryl, Edlyn Ho, Jael Chew and twins Michele and Phebe Lau - scored 11.450 to finish behind Malaysia (15.350) and Vietnam (13.650).

It may be only a bronze, but for the team, it was still a reward for the extra effort put in to integrate Avryl and compete despite Lyn's injury setback.

Said Michele, 15: "Our original team was the team that we worked with for over a year, but because we changed members, we had only about two weeks to adapt to this change.

"We did our best."

Edlyn, 17, paid tribute to her team-mates, as well as coach Natalia Rybak, for putting in extra hours to hone their routine.

"(Our coach) spent a lot of her time with us in the gym, sometimes for more than eight hours and even skipping her lunch just for us to continue training," she added.

Rybak, 55, was equally effusive with praise for her charges' performance yesterday, saying that they "(fought) like Singapore soldiers".

"We did very well, I didn't hope for these results and it was wonderful," added the Russian. "We did what we could and did our best... Very nice, I'm very happy."

At the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, the rhythmic gymnastics team had won a gold in the group all-around event.

Of that team, only Edlyn returned for this Games, with the other four being first-time participants.

Said Edlyn: "(The debutantes) did well in this competition and I think it'll motivate them to work even harder for further competitions."

Indeed, their next competition begins tomorrow - the Aug 30-Sept 3 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Pesaro, Italy.

There, they are aiming for higher scores of 14 for the hoop routine and 12 for the rope and ball.

The Kuala Lumpur SEA Games is just the Singapore team's third overseas competition. Rybak estimates that hosts Malaysia, who swept all eight rhythmic gymnastics golds, attend about nine to 10 overseas meets annually.

"It's very important that we compete outside of Singapore regularly," she said. "We need to develop girls with more interest in apparatus and we must work with speed, more development and focus on routines.

"Because they have wonderful bodies, they were born for gymnastics. We just need more development and global skills as athletes."

And probably a little more luck with injuries.

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