Q and A with...Rosy Taeymans, FIG Acrobatic Technical Committee President12/02/2014
One year into her first term as President of the FIG Acrobatic Gymnastics Technical Committee, Rosy Taeymans (BEL) has one big question on her mind: How to get Acrobatic gymnastics more into the public eye?
While Acrobatic has had a few moments in the sun – most notably, the group Spelbound, with former World Acro champions among its members, captured the attention of millions by winning "Britain's Got Talent" in 2010, and one of the most viewed videos on the FIG’s Youtube channel is a montage of the 2012 Acro Worlds -- the discipline has yet to be included in the Olympic Games.
Because of that, it has been more difficult to garner recognition for Acro, Taeymans (who asks everyone to call her Rosy) admitted on a recent visit to FIG Headquarters in Lausanne (SUI).
And while Olympic participation is not yet on the horizon, Rosy chooses to focus on the positives, including a growing junior base and increased admiration of the discipline on social media. In this edited Q and A, the former physical education teacher and longtime Acro coach addresses the challenges of being a non-Olympic sport, 2014's slate of competitions (three World Cups and the World Acro Championships in Levallois-Perret, just outside of Paris) as well as the first European Games, to be held in Baku (AZE) in 2015.
Q: What have been some of the highlights of Acro for you during the past few years?
Rosy: “For me personally, the now retired 2012 World Mixed Pairs champions Laure (de Pryck) and Nicolas (Vleeshouwers) (BEL) were especially memorable. They were a pair who, even during their training sessions, could always touch me with their performance. For me that was one of the highlights at the World Championships in Orlando. Another highlight is always when athletes bring new, high difficulty elements. Russia manages to do this on a regular basis – for example, their Trio brought a stunning new balance element that had never performed before to Orlando.
"Last summer’s World Games in Cali, despite all the difficulties, were a once in a lifetime experience! Every day there were 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, who encouraged and supported all our acrobats, which was just amazing!”
Rosy: "Because of changes to the Code of Points in artistry, we’re seeing much more beautiful choreography with very interesting and surprising entries and exits into and out of elements.
"On the other hand, we’re not so happy with the direction of chasing difficulty. We will have to change our rules or we will lose our artistry again! In the Mixed Pairs competition at the European Championships in November, we saw Portugal and Russia performing incredible series of elements in a row. The level of difficulty was very high, but there was almost no choreography left.
"But we've made a lot of progress, especially in artistry. I think we have a beautiful discipline but we’re struggling with the balance between difficulty, execution and artistry at the moment. In my opinion, execution should be the most important criteria. We have to make sure that we restore this balance, for example by limiting the number of elements. We also have to be very careful that we don't lose artistry because of difficulty.”
Q: What is the Acro Technical Committee focusing on for this cycle?
Rosy: "This cycle we want to focus on limitation of elements and figuring out how we can protect the level of technical performance without losing artistry. We really improved the Tables of Difficulty last cycle, but we didn't tackle men's Quad, because it was too much. So that's on our agenda now. We're also working on drawing tables of deductions for the judges.
“The one thing we have to be aware of, as a TC, is that more rules make our discipline more complex. So simplification is always one of the main goals.”
Q: Acro fans have a lot to look forward to in 2014 -- three World Cups and a World Championships in Levallois-Perret (FRA)…
Rosy: "Yes. We have one World cup competition in Portugal, the Maia Cup, in March. The next one is in Aalen (GER) in May and the last one will be October this year. That’s the Patricia Wade Classic in Great Britain. It was an international competition in 2013 and this year it is a World Cup competition. Hopefully it becomes a well-known World competition to honor a great lady in Acrobatic history. This summer we have the World Age Group and the World Championships in Levallois near Paris. We hope to have good numbers of participation.”
Rosy: "The major reason we're struggling as a discipline is that we're not part of the Olympic gymnastics family. It would help us so much if one category, for example Mixed Pairs, could enter the Olympic Games. Ten mixed pairs or 12 mixed pairs, that could give us an Olympic status, which would result in more funding for the National governments, meaning more National federations would support acrobatics in their program. It would give us more attention in the media, which will make it easier to find more sponsors! At the moment, it is still a dream but we have to keep on trying to get there with the help of everyone.
"Acrobatic gymnastics was included in the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics, and many people were asking, how come that this is not an Olympic sport? When people see acrobatics, they love it, but it is not known enough around the world. But how do you get more international recognition? The social media can help us, but it’s hard to really break through without Olympic status."
Q: Is this leading top athletes like current Mixed Pairs World champions de Pryck and Vleeshouwers to accept contracts with Cirque du Soleil while they are still very young?
Rosy: "But of course! In Cirque they get a lot of appreciation and success. There are so many countries where our athletes have only very little financial support. They need to go to University or college to get their degrees, because only few can make a living as coaches after their careers as sportsmen. When they have the opportunity to go to Cirque, most of them don’t hesitate.
“We struggle to keep our seniors in the sport. A senior needs to train 25 to 30 hours per week. A professional center with professional coaches and a choreographer is the only way to be successful. If there's no money or support, it is not possible.
“We also have only one World Championship every two years, so it’s hard to ask your athletes to stay another two years without major competition and train for, and to keep training 25 to 30 hours a week when you are 18 years old.”
Q: What about the juniors?
Rosy: "With the juniors, it's better. Our numbers are still going up in the age groups. Clubs who train gymnasts 15 to 20 hours a week can reach a good level of performance at junior level because there is a limit on difficulty. Of course, a professional center with full time coaches will help, but it is not necessary.”
Rosy: "It's the same, they're struggling. Most of them still have acrobatics and they're still supported by their governments, but money is becoming a problem. Olympic recognition of their sport is very important for their status. And of course, there's a financial crisis in the world. When there's less money and every ministry has to save money, the ministers of sports will cut the budget for the non-Olympic disciplines. It's the same case around the world, not only for acrobatics. All non-Olympic sports are paying the same price."
Q: Your home country, Belgium, is very strong in Acro. To what do you attribute that success?
Rosy: " The combination of very good system with top coaches and an excellent choreographer. We started a full time system at least 12 years ago. The Belgian Minister of Education created the possibility for Sport Federations to be part of the “Topsport schools.” The Minister is paying for the teachers and the federations for the full time coaches. All athletes go to training in the morning until 10:30, and after that they go to school. They only have about 20 hours of lessons on the major subjects like mathematics, chemistry, physics and languages. At 16.00 the athletes go back to training. They have long days but they can train two times a day. We were very lucky that acrobatics was supported by our gymnastics federation and included in this system. Unfortunately we, as a discipline, are in danger because the government cancelled all funding for non-Olympic sports last year.”
Q: What's the biggest change you've seen in Acro during the past few cycles?
Rosy: "By introducing artistry into judging, acrobatics changed a lot, and for me that was the biggest change. An exercise became so much more than just elements of difficulty, and that was very positive. A negative evolution is that coaches chase difficulty like never before and this is because of a change in the code of points. We have to bring everything back in balance again as soon as possible. We have to pay a price because we didn’t foresee the impact of this change correctly, but I’m convinced that necessary changes in the future will bring positive changes in the end."
|10/07/2014 12/07/2014||24th Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships 2014||LEVALLOIS (FRA)||ACRO|
|02/07/2014 05/07/2014||8th Acrobatic Gymnastics World Age Group Competition 2014||LEVALLOIS (FRA)||ACRO|