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U.S. on Move in Rhythmic Gymnastics

April 17, 1986|RAY RIPTON | Times Staff Writer

But if it is more dance than acrobatics, that doesn't mean it is any less a sport than artistic gymnastics. Mikhail Baryshnikov is a great dancer, but he is also a great athlete.

Probably Less Burnout

And there may be less burnout among rhythmic gymnasts than there is in other sports. Retton quit while she was still in high school, though she probably could have gone on for years. Lydia Bree of Redondo Beach, now an instructor at Svirsky's school, was a U. S. alternate in the '84 Olympics when she was 25.

"It's a sport made for women, and you really reach your potential when you're at college age," said Bree. She said that it takes a long time for a performer to develop in rhythmic gymnastics and that a "woman's body peaks during the years between 18-22."

She said that she gave up the sport and did not suffer burnout. "I felt as if I could compete forever, but I also felt I could contribute in a different way. You can stay around longer in this sport and, at the same time, get to convey artistic expression."

Exposure in the Olympics did not do as much for rhythmic gymnastics as the appearances in the Games of the Olgas, Nadias and Mary Lous did for traditional gymnastics. For one thing, rhythmic didn't receive as much television exposure.

Surge in Popularity

But the Olympics and TV still gave the sport a boost in America, said Bree. Before the Games, there were about 500 rhythmic gymnasts who were members of the U. S. Gymnastics Federation, and today there are more than 1,500 members, she said.

Though five of Svirsky's students who were members of the 1985 national team have left the sport, Svirsky feels confident that performers from her school will continue to dominate the national team.

Some of her students with a good chance of making the team, she said, are Arina Rubinstein, 16, of Agoura; Alexandra Feldman, 15, of Sherman Oaks; Simona Soloveychik, 16, of Encino; Kim Stiles, 17, of Palos Verdes, and Eugenia Yuan, 15, of San Marino.

Their top, out-of-town competition includes Wendy Hilliard of Detroit, Laura David of San Rafael and Dacon Lister of Muskogee, Okla.

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