Rhythmic gymnastics is an Olympic sport that combines various elements of gymnastics, ballet, dance and apparatus handling (ball, hoop, ribbon, clubs and rope). It requires balance, flexibility, strength, and excellent eye-hand coordination. Gymnasts compete individually or as a group of five. The sport is governed by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, which enacts a code of points that regulates all aspects of the sport. Competitive rhythmic gymnastics originated in the Soviet Union during the 1940s. The first World Championships was held in 1963 in Budapest. The sport was added to the Olympics in 1984. The sport has been dominated by Russia and other former Soviet countries since the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Only 20 gymnasts can qualify to compete in the Olympics (limit 2 per country) Since 1996, the United States has only qualified one rhythmic gymnast to the Olympics. The U.S. has never had a group team qualify other than by wildcard. In 2013, the U.S. had unprecedented success at the World Championships in Ukraine. Two U.S. gymnasts advanced to the all-around finals (top 24). Their success bodes well for having an American gymnast qualify to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
This project will follow these and other U.S. hopefuls for the 2014 Youth Olympiad and the 2016 Olympics. The gymnasts who are the subject of these images are elite gymnasts, some of whom who have relocated thousands of miles for the opportunity to train together in the hopes of representing the U.S. in international competitions, including World Cup, Grand Prix, World Championships and even the Youth Olympiad and Olympics.
arms ©Suzanne Metzel
face ©Suzanne Metzel
hands ©Suzanne Metzel
legs ©Suzanne Metzel
feet ©Suzanne Metzel