Leaping across the sand into a split, Samantha Lee ’20, a rhythmic gymnast, tackles a difficult routine on an unfamiliar gymnastic surface. Despite the challenge of sinking into the sand, Lee’s team practiced jumps and turns together for two hours, back and forth along a beach in Bulgaria. In an interview with The Phillipian, Lee described her experience in renowned rhythmic gymnast Sylvia Miteva’s training program this past summer.
“My favorite aspect of the [Bulgaria] trip was learning new things. I was with the older group [and] was one of the younger girls in my group. I was with 20-year-olds and 18-year-olds, [and] I could see how much experience they had. They taught me [skills] that they learned before and techniques that would improve my skills and just generally everything,” said Lee.
Lee learned about rhythmic gymnastics, a sport combining elements of dance, gymnastics, and prop manipulation through a demo class in North Andover. Initially devoting much of her time to competitive swimming, Lee was inspired to begin rhythmic gymnastics because she was excited to try a new sport, and was influenced by the proficiency of older rhythmic gymnasts. It was not long before she dropped swimming to practice rhythmic gymnastics full time.
Much of Lee’s lifestyle now revolves around rhythmic gymnastics. Motivated by her peers’ support and the competitive nature of the sport, Lee has continued with rhythmic gymnastics for six years. In that time, she has developed a sense of familiarity and comfort amongst a community of gymnasts who share similar passions and goals.
“[My gymnastic friends are] really good, and they make me work harder, see what flaws I have, what I can improve on. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, through [times] when I’ve not won competitions to [times] when I’ve gotten first place. We always have a ton of fun when we’re together,” said Lee.
As a day student, Lee has opportunities over the weekend to attend her rhythmic gymnastics gym nearby. Lee hopes to continue her passion for rhythmic gymnastics but understands the limitations of attending a demanding boarding high school, even for commuting students. Her years of practice have translated into a strong work ethic that she believes have already helped in her transition to academic life at Andover.
“Overall, I feel like rhythmic gymnastics has played a big influence on my life. I would love to start [a rhythmic gymnastics team] at Andover but it takes a long time to be able to get to a high enough level to start routines and you need a good facility with really high ceilings. In school, [rhythmic gymnastics] has taught me to have time management and to see how things fit in, to learn to enjoy stuff, and even when I fail, to try harder and focus. Only then will I get better,” said Lee.