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Gymnaestrada: gymnastics for everyone

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Performers at the 4th Asian Gymnaestrada Opening Ceremony. (Photo taken by VOXSPORTS)

Performers clad in brightly-coloured clown costumes scamper around while enacting a mock fight scene.

This is just one example of a creatively charged showcase at the 4th Asian Gymnaestrada, played out over the weekend of 2 and 3 November.

While the mention of gymnastics may bring to mind a strict discipline filled with austere contortion and rules, a gymnaestrada begs to differ.

A Gymnaestrada aims to exhibit various gymnastic movements, including those that some may not even consider gymnastics. However, this makes the sport more appealing to a wider audience.

"I think gymnaestrada itself has achieved its objective of showing movement in different forms... Not just in the technicalities of gymnastic presentation, but through dance, cheerleading and even lion dance," says Vincent Fok, founder and director of Gymkraft-Invincible and Gymkraft-Diamonds.

The two local cheerleading teams performed a stunning set of human pyramids, jumps, and spins on the opening day.

Fellow performer Fairul Edham, who is the head coach of Gymkraft-Invincible and Gymkraft-diamonds, adds, “We're presenting another form of gymnastics in the form of cheerleading. It's something different so we hope we stand out.”

The impressive lineup of acts in the programme was proof of how the Gymnaestrada provides a good representation of gymnastic arts to the general public. It is more inclusive and involves more contemporary movements which in turn, may result in attracting more people to the sport.

Although Gymnaestrada presents a comparatively more light-hearted environment for creative interpretations of gymnastics, it still calls for a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make an engaging performance that will enthrall the audience.

“We practise four to five hours each day, four to six days a week,” reveals Kanako Inoue, whose team Nittadidai Gymnastics Club is from Japan. But the effort pays off once each team has the chance to shine in the arena.

Says Kanako, whose team performed elaborate contortions and dizzying human pyramids on both days of the gymnaestrada: “We are proud to do this because we want [as many people as possible] to watch our performance.”

Despite the charm of such an exhibition of diverse talent, there is currently a dearth of general knowledge about gymnaestrada and the events surrounding it.

“The message needs to be brought across to general public,” says Victor, adding that the turnout for the opening ceremony consisted mostly of people already “familiar with the scene”.

Some possible measures to attract more people he suggested - include a longer publicity period where the event is made known to the public at an earlier date. He also suggested a prequel of videos in the months leading up to the event - and utilising social media to generate more buzz.

The aim, as Fairul puts it, is to let people know they can’t miss out on the fun and excitement at the gymnaestrada. “It's really an eye-opener because you see a lot of gymnastic skills, things that you've never seen before.”
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