St. Francis girl competing in rhythmic gymnastics junior championships

Kiana Eide, a 13-year-old from St. Francis, and five teammates trained last week in the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Spring Lake Park, gymnasium, preparing for the 2012 Pan American Jr. Championships.

Kiana Eide (kneeling, bottom right) and her Team USA rhythmic gymnastics teammates pose Aug. 24 during a break from training in the gymnasium at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Spring Lake Park. The girls left Sunday to compete in the 2012 Pan American Jr. Championships in Argentina. Pictured here are Tamara Iliyev of New York (next to Kiana) and (standing, left to right) Allyson Roytburd of New York, Liza Kourdaev of Maple Grove, Sophia Popova of Plymouth and Nicole Sladkov of Illinois. Photo by Sue Austreng

Kiana Eide (kneeling, bottom right) and her Team USA rhythmic gymnastics teammates pose Aug. 24 during a break from training in the gymnasium at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Spring Lake Park. The girls left Sunday to compete in the 2012 Pan American Jr. Championships in Argentina. Pictured here are Tamara Iliyev of New York (next to Kiana) and (standing, left to right) Allyson Roytburd of New York, Liza Kourdaev of Maple Grove, Sophia Popova of Plymouth and Nicole Sladkov of Illinois. Photo by Sue Austreng

Kiana is an elite member of a group of rhythmic gymnasts who were named during Olympic trials as FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) Jr. National Group for Team USA. Those Olympic trials took place in San Jose, Calif., in June and were part of the Visa National Championships for Rhythmic Gymnastics.

After a diligent couple of days of practice at Prince of Peace, the girls – who call themselves Team Combo – boarded a plane Sunday afternoon, bound for Texas, connecting to Chile and then arriving in Cordoba, Argentina, for competition, which started Tuesday.

“We train every day. It’s been an intense summer with only four days off, but it will be worth it next week,” said Kiana, who has been competing in rhythmic gymnastics since she was just four years old.

Team Combo is the only United States team taking part in this international contest.

In addition to Kiana, other Minnesota girls on the rhythmic team include Liza Kourdaev of Maple Grove and Sophia Popova of Plymouth.

Two of the local girls’ teammates, Allyson Roytburd and Tamara Iliyev, are from New York and one, Nicole Sladkov, is from Illinois.

And all the girls have high hopes for their international competition.

“I hope others see that we represent the U.S. and I hope that we can make rhythmic gymnastics more visible, more popular in America,” said Liza.

“No one believed we could do it, but with long hours and hard work, we did. Now we’re going to international competition,” said Allyson.

“And I feel confident … our stamina has improved, we are more stable and consistent … We will do very well,” Kiana said.

The team of five girls (with one on standby in case of injury) will compete simultaneously in the group ball and group rope routines.

To learn more about the USA rhythmic gymnastics team, visit www.usagym.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com


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