Athletes have a ball with hoops and ribbons

Athletes have a ball with hoops and ribbons

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Mabel Sieh keeps smiling with the help of Monica Lo, despite discovering that rhythmic gymnastics is not as easy as it looks.
Mabel Sieh keeps smiling with the help of Monica Lo, despite discovering that rhythmic gymnastics is not as easy as it looks.
Photos: Nora Tam/SCMP
The Olympic Games, the world's biggest sporting event, have come and gone in London. But Young Post is still trying out some of the sports in whichathletes competed, for your information and entertainment. This week: Mabel Sieh learns why aesthetics, and the ability to catch, count for so much


My life as a "gymnast" started when I was in FormOne, still studying in Hong Kong. I had so much fun learning to do somersaults after school from Mr Wong, our tall PE teacher: he never smiled, but nevertheless he was handsome. I'm not sure if it was the sport itself, or him, but I got so hooked that I started taking more lessons outside school with a local gymnastics association.

Yet one day everything changed. I broke my left ankle during a lesson at the association. It was late in the evening; somehow we were all left doing things without supervision. I didn't think twice when I tried to do a front flip with no one standing by to help. I heard myself scream. Then I was on my way to the hospital. (Gosh, how it hurt!)

Time passed and that became a distant memory; now I'm a reporter. Once I was told that life is a circle and every "thing" and person will come back at some point, even if we don't know when. And here is my "comeback".

For my Young Post Olympic assignment, I chose to go back to gymnastics. I was thrilled at the chance to meet Monica Lo Kam-lan, a coach for The Gymnastics Association of Hong Kong, China, and the convenor of its technical committee, overseeing and co-ordinating the team's local and overseas competitions.

My lesson was in rhythmic gymnastics, one of the three disciplines that were featured at the London Olympics: the others were artistic gymnastics and trampolining.

I learned from Monica that rhythmic gymnastics is very popular in Hong Kong because of its elegant dance movements. The fact that the dance doesn't always have to be complicated makes it suitable for all ages.

"Rhythmic gymnastics is about aesthetics," Monica said. "It's basically a piece of dance with a combination of body movements and accompanied by music. The dance can be with or without an object."

I was given different objects to choose from: ribbons, balls, hoops, juggling clubs or ropes. I didn't want to end up entangled in a long piece of rope, or go through the frustration of watching a ball or club drop in front of me a zillion times, or chasing after a spinning hoop, so we both agreed that I should try the ribbon. But it was harder than I - or anybody - ever thought.

First, trying to get the ribbon to spin in a specific pattern takes quite some practice. Second, making sure that the ribbon is kept off the ground during the spin is even harder.

Yet even if you know all the spins, you are only halfway through the act; there is still a dance to co-ordinate and remember. Doing everything right is like sending a text on your phone to a friend while swimming underwater.

Two hours into my practice, my right arm was heavy and starting to move on its own. My pretty ribbon also refused to flow according to my will. Instead, it decided to slide on the floor. At the same time, I kept failing to complete the same move. I was disheartened. I wanted to go home.

However, Monica was a wonderful coach; she is kind and patient. I was amazed by the creativity she showed in making up a short dance just for me on the spot, and also to keep changing it according to my "performance". Her smile was most encouraging and gentle. Towards the end, when I was feeling tired and looking frustrated, she said: "Keep smiling - it'll make you more beautiful."

So I smiled as I threw the ribbons up in the air, and I remembered the days when I was a Form One student flipping and laughing in the gym.

Where Hongkongers can 'double stag'

The Gymnastics Association of Hong Kong, China
Address: Room 1002, Olympic House, 1 Stadium Path, Causeway Bay
Telephone: 2504 8233
www.gahk.org.hk

Sportscene
Address: 27/F, Parkview Centre, 7 Lau Li St, Causeway Bay
Telephone: 2757 4324
www.sportsceneltd.com

King's Rhythmic Gymnastics Ballet Academy of Hong Kong
Address: Shop 912, Level 9, The Metropolis Mall, Hung Hom
Telephone: 2708 1288
www.kings.org.hk

See what else we're doing this summer

- Sailing
- Equestrian
- Boxing
- Rowing
- Taekwondo
- Archery
- BMX
- Trampolining
- Handball

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