Son Yeon-jae Wins 1st Gymnastic World Series Medal [11-05-2012]
Rhythmic gymnastfairy” Son Yeon-jae won Korea’s first medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the World Cup series of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in Penza, Russia on April 29. She claimed bronze in the hoop final with 28.050 points. Azerbaijan’s Aliya Garayeva won the gold medal with a score of 28.675, and Russia’s Daria Dmitriyeva claimed silver with 28.525 points.

Earlier, Son had finished fourth to advance to the final with a total score of 112.200 points in the individual all-around preliminaries, earning 27.900 in hoop, 28.125 in ball, 27.675 in club, and 28.500 in ribbon. Son was the first Korean athlete to advance to the final in all four disciplines. Her previous personal best was 10th in the individual all-around at the World Cup series.

Meanwhile, Son ranked 11th in the individual all-around, while finishing sixth with 26.950 points in the ribbon final, at the World Cup event of the season that came to an end in Pesaro, Italy on April 15. She also ranked 11th at the 2011 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships held in Montpellier, France, from September 19 to 25, 2011, earning about 27 points in club and some 26 points each in the three other categories.
Son’s athletic feats and her improving performance are boosting Koreans’ expectations about a first-ever Olympic medal in rhythmic gymnastics for Korea at the upcoming London Olympics. “I really practiced hard to prepare for the World Cup series. I’m pleased with the results,” she said after winning the bronze medal at the World Cup series in Penza, Russia. “I had just wanted to display in hoop presentation as much as I had practiced. These better results than I expected will surely motivate me to perform much better in the future.”

After watching Son perform, Suh Hye-jeong, a Korean international gymnastics referee, said with satisfaction, “Referees from other countries were stunned by Son’s performance. Son finally became the first Korean gymnast to advance to the final in all four rhythmic gymnastic categories. If she keeps up the good work, she will surely perform well in the upcoming London Olympics.”

Kim Ji-young, the chairwoman of the Korea Gymnastic Association’s rhythmic gymnastics training committee, said, “After her presentation, Son texted me saying ‘I’m satisfied with my presentation.’ It was good for her to have such a high level of confidence.” Yelena Nifiodova, Son’s Russian coach, said, “She is improving remarkably. She’s doing well in her intensive training program. You can have expectations about her.” Lucy Dmitriva, a Bulgarian who is in charge of music for Son’s choreography, also said, “Other athletes are now wary of Son. She has only to learn how to overcome tension and stress.”

The World Cup gymnastics series are a warm-up to London Olympics. Only if she is determined to make more thoroughgoing preparations will she achieve better results in the London Olympics under the watchful eyes of spectators and TV viewers around the world this summer. Meanwhile, Son will also compete at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup, to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria from May 5 to 7.