People decide to take up a sport for different reasons. For 17-year-old Ivy Liu Hoi-yan, it was the beauty of rhythmic gymnastics that appealed.
“I took up the sport a few years ago after I watched Russian rhythmic gymnast Yana Kudryavtseva perform at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Kiev, Ukraine,” says Ivy, the first runner-up at this year’s SCMP Student of the Year (Sportsperson) award.
“I wondered how she could make so many difficult ball throws look so pretty. Her ability to spin the ball on the tip of her fingers or catch it was perfect. I was so impressed with everything she did. I wanted to be as stunning as she was.”
Rhythmic gymnastics can be performed with a rope, a hoop, a ball, clubs, or a ribbon, and athletes perform to music on a 13-metre-square floor area. Ivy is an expert with the hoop, the ball, and the ribbon.
“It feels like I’m the star of the stage – it’s show time [when I am on the floor], and I love showing everyone the best part of myself,” says the Form Six student from TWGHs S. C. Gaw Memorial College.
Ivy says rhythmic gymnastics requires a lot of balance, power, endurance and flexibility. When she performs with the ball, it’s very important to ensure her hands and body are moving smoothly and gracefully.
To achieve the flowing movement associated with rhythmic gymnastics, she religiously practises each routine more than 100 times during each training session.
When asked about the hardest part of her training, Ivy said that she has issues with balancing. “I used to put a bowl or a book on my head [to practise poise and achieve equal balance]. I broke so many bowls.” When this happened, Ivy would concentrate on perfecting her moves, rather than worry about how many bowls she had broken. She would tell herself over and over again to simply do well enough next time so she wouldn’t break another bowl.
Ivy is also a hurdles expert, and has won many awards at local athletics competitions. She won bronze in the girls’ junior 400m hurdles at the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championships 2015. She says you need similar skills for both the hurdles and rhythmic gymnastics.
“You may think speed and arm-leg synchronisation only applies to hurdles, but they are also useful in rhythmic gymnastics. Every twirl of the ribbon involves rhythm, pace, balance and coordination,” says Ivy.
Ivy is currently preparing for the 400m hurdles in the Hong Kong Athletic Series 2016 – Series 4, which will be held on September 24-25 at Wan Chai Sports Ground.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want Super Mario as my track race teammate. With his powers, he can run very fast. He would also be a great help in the relay race. I would ask him for useful advice on how to compete in hurdles as well, because he can jump over very tall fences. I’m sure he would be an exceptional teammate.
If you could have the abilities of an animal during a competition, which one would you choose and why?
A cheetah. It’s the world’s fastest land animal, and for that, it requires a lot of rhythm, balance, strength and concentration. It would be nice to run as fast as a cheetah does during my hurdles race.
Which food would you never give up?
Everything that is sweet, such as ice cream, chocolate or candies. I’m always in a better mood and can run faster when I have eaten something sugary and delicious.