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Gymnastics Team Dreams Of Olympics

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ROANOKE RAPIDS — The next Summer Olympics are not until 2004 in Athens, Greece. But even now, some girls in Roanoke Rapids are working to become part of Team USA. Their event is rhythmic gymnastics, and they have a good chance of being among the best.

You can tell Zoya Polanski did not grow up in Halifax County. "I'm from Russia. From big city, St. Petersburg, " she says.

She once chased a dream to compete with the world's best in the vault, the beam, the bars. She remembers her coach told her to try rhythmic gymnastics instead.

"I was crying the first time, I said, I don't like rhythmic, I like artistic. Then I said, no I like rhythmic more. It is more graceful, it is interesting," says Polanski.

Ribbons, hoops and other apparatus were not the first choice for most of the girls she coaches, either.

"So later they changed their opinion. They say, no we like this. We like ball, we like hoop. It's interesting," says Polanski.

Polanski became a master of the sport. Now she is guiding her two daughters, Zoya and Sasha, and their teammates to the same level, and maybe higher.

"She's a great coach. She pushes us to do what we have to do, even if we don't like it," says a student.

Hard work and sacrifice all for a common goal: "Being on the national team and going to the Olympics," says another student.

Along the way, Polanski believes the girls will discover, as she did, that it is not just about ribbons and medals. It is about the sport itself.

"It's nice. It's wonderful. It's beautiful sport for girls," Polansky says.

It will be a busy summer for Polanski's team. They're set to compete in California, Connecticut, and possibly Pennsylvania in their quest to be part of the National Team.


Rick Armstrong


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