Rhythmic gymnastics is all about spellbinding routines performed on the floor. There are no vaults or bars to leap off; it’s just you, the music, and one piece of apparatus that brings your performance to life! We caught up with reigning British champion and Commonwealth Games medallist Laura Halford ahead of the 2015 British Gymnastics Championship Series, to find out more about the most elegant and expressive of all the gymnastics disciplines.
Hi Laura, why should the audience come to watch the rhythmic competitions during their time at the Echo?
Rhythmic gymnastics mixes elegance and beauty with difficulty and risk making it really exciting and entertaining to watch. Because there is four different apparatus to be used and an infinite amount of manipulations to be done with each apparatus, you can never expect the same thing from one routine to the next making the competition really interesting.
What should people be looking out for/ what makes a great routine?
A great routine is where someone can correctly execute the difficulties required in each routine at the same time as expressing to the music and putting on a performance for not just the judges, but the audience as well.
Why is rhythmic gymnastics so special to you??
I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was six years old so for 13 years now gymnastics has been one of the most important parts of my life. Through gymnastics I have made so many amazing friends and had opportunities that some people may not experience in their whole life, never mind at just 19 years old, such as travelling the world.
Gymnastics has taught me hard work, perseverance and dedication which has helped me in every aspect of my life, not just my sporting career.
I love rhythmic because it allows me to be athletic and strong at the same time as elegant, which is not a combination you would usually find in other sports. I love performing to an audience and being expressive which is something that rhythmic gymnastics allows me to do every day.
Can you name some of the top skills people should look out for?
The main moves to look out for are risks, balances, leaps and pirouettes.
Risks involve throwing the apparatus and performing multiple rotational elements underneath the apparatus while it is in the air. The more difficult risks are when the apparatus are thrown or caught without the use of the gymnasts hands e.g. Between their legs.
Balances are generally performed standing on one leg and fixing a stable position while a technical movement is completed with the apparatus. There are a wide range of different positions that will take the shape of balances.
Leaps or jumps are mostly performed in a variation of a split or stag position. The best leaps are the ones where an over split is reached; the legs pass 180 degrees.
Pirouettes are rotations that are performed standing on one leg. The most impressive pirouettes are the ones where many 360 degree rotations are performed. The more rotations completed, the greater difficulty the gymnast will be rewarded.
What does it take to be a top rhythmic gymnast?
Like any other sportsperson, to be a top gymnast you need to be very determined and motivated. You have to be very dedicated as training hours need to be long in order to perfect our competition routines. You have to be willing to give 110% every day.
As reigning champion how excited are you to try and retain your title and compete in Liverpool?
I am really excited to be competing in Liverpool for the first time because I am looking forward to being able to perform in front of such a large audience. Over the past two years I have had a lot more experience competing in larger arenas so I can't wait to get the opportunity to do that the British Championships this year. Obviously I would love to be able to retain my title but I will be happy as long as I have performed my routines as best as I can. My main focus isn't on the result but just doing as well as I know I can.