Rhythmic gymnastics is so much more than simply waving a ribbon. It is about precision. It is a sport and an art form. Athletes must be in incredible shape, but be trained in ballet and other styles of dance. Spain’s Ana Perez knows this well. She is both a successful gymnast and a celebrated coach, lending her talents to help train future generations of gymnasts while still remaining in the shape of an athlete ready to step on stage.
Perez’s coaching abilities have earned her a reputation as one of Spain’s best. She is internationally sought-after, and has worked with many award-winning athletes, helping them get to where they are.
“As a coach, it is very similar to being an athlete, but on the other side of the competition. I still train five days per week plus one or two days more on the weekends for competitions. Really, it’s different because you have to convey your knowledge to the girls, but I love it. The opportunity to teach girls since they were young is amazing, I enjoy a lot with my work and also, I learn a lot every day from them,” she said.
Earlier this year, Perez showed Spain and the world the caliber of coach she is while training Aitana Ramos for the Absolute Spanish World Championship, the highest level of competition that the country offers. Ramos was trained for her individual season by three coaches, as this is a rule regulated by the Spanish Federation of rhythmic gymnastics in the beginner category in the Absolute Spanish Championship. Together with two other coaches, Perez trained her with the purpose of classifying herself in the preliminary round, since she was provincial champion thanks to the sum of her three exercises. She ended up taking second place in the autonomic phase and she classified herself for the Individual Spanish Championship in June.
“You feel very proud because what I have learned since I was little, which is to do gymnastics, is now what I teach and I do so with the advances of the rhythmic gymnastics code as established by the International Gymnastics Federation. It was extremely satisfying. For Aitana, it was the first time she learned with the maces that I taught her, and her improvement was very remarkable. She performed a great competition, both in the exercise of maces and in the rest of the hands-free and ball exercises. In this way, Aitana was selected the following year by the technification team of the Valencian Community,” Perez described.
Perez was responsible for making the choreography of juggling clubs, looking for the music and creating the choreography in order to obtain strong results. She supervised the rest of the choreography with ball and hands-free. By doing so, Ramos got the best possible position with the sum of the three apparatuses, achieving very high results of the 50 beginner gymnasts that participated.
Perez’s fellow coaches, Alicia Gaspar, who trained Ramos with the ball, and Julia Marin, who trained her in hands-free, knew Perez’s contributions were pivotal to the gymnast’s success. The two of them say Perez’s choreography was “perfect” for Ramos, and she knows exactly what the sport should be. They describe her as an excellent coworker who is essential to their team, always giving advice and modifying choreography to make it the best it can be. However, they weren’t the only people impressed with Perez’s work.
“Ana is very friendly with the girls. They love her and also her work. Ana’s work during the year is very important for our Club because we have a lot of girls to pay attention to, not just during the midweek at the training, but also at the competitions during the weekend, when we have to travel with the gymnasts around different cities and places and we have to take care, motivate and have fun with the girls. Our job is our passion and Ana is the reflection of that. She always has a smile in her face and is always creating a good work environment,” said Ines Gaspar, Coach of the Morvedre Rhythmic Gymnastics Club.
Perez had seen success at the same competition three years before, bringing her team to victory and taking first place. However, this year she coached an individual rather than a team. In the individual competition, the five best gymnasts in each community of Spain in each category are chosen to compete. It is at a very high level where the best gymnasts go. Every gymnast wants to be part of it. Although Ramos did not win, Perez could not have been prouder of the young athlete.
“Aitana was not a winner but both my teammates, Julia, Alicia and I, we were very happy, since Aitana had managed to be among the best in Spain doing a great championship in her three choreographies. Aitana had small mistakes that are normal because she is a gymnast who is learning and because of her young age, because she was only 12, she lacked experience which she will gradually acquire,” said Perez.
With talent like Perez’s, we can continue to expect greatness from this coach. Countries around the world are looking to have her train their rhythmic gymnasts, and there is no doubt that she will continue to see them soar to success.
Photo from left to right: Marta Belloch, María Ripoll, Ariadna Moya, Daniela Sese, Aitana Ramos, Alba Acosta, Ana Perez