Elena Mesheryakova had only a limited command of the English language when she first arrived in the country two years ago to take charge of the Serdang Rhythmic Angels elite squad.
Despite the difficulty in communication, Elena had little problem teaching her students rhythmic gymnastics.
“As we went along, they began to understand my instructions better and executed the movements more effectively,” she said.
The 26-year-old former gymnast from Uzbekistan said she derived a lot of satisfaction from the results and improvements that her protégés had made.
“They have mastered some of the complicated moves incorporated in their routines. I am pleased to have contributed to their development,” she explained.
Elena is current training an elite batch of 16 primary school students at the centre.
The centre, co-founded by Teh Lan Hoong and Kok Mong Lin in 1999 at SRJK (C) Serdang Baru 2 in Seri Kembangan, was recognised by the National Sports Council (NSC) this year and listed as one of NSC’s rhythmic gymnastics state training centres.
The trainees are from this centre are now showing results in the national circuit organised by the NSC.
In May, seven trainees from the centre represented Selangor in the Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia, in May while six other gymnasts participated in the second International Rhythmic Gymnastics Friendship Cup in Longtan, Taoyuan County, in Taiwan.
At the Arafura Games, gymnasts from the Serdang Rhythmic Angels bagged three golds, nine silvers and one bronze medal.
Chong Yen Shan, who grabbed three gold medals in the rope, hoop and ball events and a silver medal in the ribbon event, was the toast of team.
Chong, 11 gave a credible performance as she finished second overall behind Sarawak’s Shahkizza MJ Liew in Level 7 (Division 3) category.
Elaine Koon, 12, grabbed three silver medals in the rope, hoop and ball events to finish fourth overall.
Loh Chooi Shawn, 12 and Amy Kwan Dict Weng, 10, took part in the same category. Kwan bagged a bronze medal in the ball event.
Loh also participated in the first International Rhythmic Gymnastics Friendship Cup in Taiwan last year.
“It was a good learning experience because it allowed me to learn and compete against other young gymnasts,” said Loh, who idolises Ukrainian Anna Bessenova for her expression and artistic element in her routines.
Currently, the centre has a total of 138 trainees. Teh said the national team’s success in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games had generated a lot of interest among the public towards the sport.
“We felt there was a need to set up a centre to cater to the parents’ requests to sent their children for training. Our aim is to create a broad base at the grassroots level and to promote rhythmic gymnastics,” added Teh.
The centre was based at the SRJK (C) Serdang Baru 2 as the school allowed them to use the hall free of charge.
Initially, the centre did not charge the trainees any fee. But that noble concept failed to work because the trainees were not committed.
So, the centre decided to charge the trainees RM10 a month and use the money to buy training mats. Since February, the gymnasts have to pay RM35 a month.
The centre has managed to go so far due to the support from volunteers, especially the parents.
“The Angel Cup competition that we organised last year was a major success that also involved the parents,” said Kok, who affectionately known as Mama Kok.
The event drew entries from Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan.
Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Germany have also expressed interest in taking part in this biennial invitation championships next year. The competition caters for gymnasts aged eight and 12.
Besides the Selangor School Sports Council Meet (MSSS) in July, the Malaysia School Sports Council (MSSM) championships in August and two SportExcel circuits, the Serdang Rhythmic Angels have been invited to take part in an invitation competition in Perth, Australia, in September.
The centre is expecting Katja Kleinvedt from Germany to arrive this month and train the 24-member back-up squad.