• Ethne Tierney

the "Billy elliot" of rhythmic gymnastics, ruben orihuela

The international Gymnastics Federation (FIG) does not have a men's Code of Points for rhythmic gymnastics. However, this didn't make the sport any less attractive for young boys that felt in love with the expressiveness and beauty or rhythmic gymnastics. One of them was Ruben Orihuela, a gymnast that wanted to stay on the mat and practice his sport. He was one of the pioneers competing in rhythmic gymnastics national competitions and he opened a world of opportunities to other males by petitioning for a competition just for them. He is now a renowned judge, coach and role-model for gymnasts of all genders. He has been called the "Billy Elliot" of rhythmic gymnastics because of his perseverance and talent in RG despite the lack of care from the governing bodies, social norms and gender-roles.

Ruben joined a rhythmic gymnastics club in Valencia (Spain) when he was ten years old. He told a Spanish newspaper that he became interested in the discipline because he used to see some of the girls in school rehearse, and he wanted to learn to do the things they did.

Later, he joined a club where there was only one other boy, and according to what Orihuela narrated to El Pais, he quit soon after, as he found it intimidating to train with mostly girls. Orihuela, however, stayed and he started competing in tournaments.

The only reason why he was allowed to take part in the Spanish Federation's national competition was due to a gap in the legislation at the time. Every region was able to send ten girls to the nationals and two extra participants in the open category, where foreign and male gymnasts could be selected.

Unfortunately, the governing body changed its policy and forbid male gymnasts to participate in national competitions in January 2009, following a statement from the FIG:

"Rhythmic gymnastics is a women's sport, and that [the Federation] doesn't have rules for male competition."

The backlash this measurement received in Spain from regional federations, parents and gymnasts was so big they had to re-evaluate the situation soon after. Ruben wrote a petition for a men's rhythmic gymnastics competition, which led to the world to witness the first event of this kind. The first edition of the championship took place in May 2009 in Gijón (Spain), where he won a medal. This wasn't new to him as he has been on the podium for nine consecutive years, from 2007 to 2016.

There is hundred of male rhythmic gymnasts in Spain, thousands around the world, and there would be more if it was a proper FIG discipline. They aren't able to practice sport they love, and don't have role models or leaders to motivate them as they are not represented in the rhythmic gymnastics community at all.

The FIG claimed that this is because there isn't a Code of Points for them, and their discipline is not regulated. For physiological and aesthetic reasons, this makes sense, after all, rhythmic gymnastics has been accurately tailored for a woman's anatomy for decades. But many can't help but wonder why the FIG hasn't promoted, researched, or in any

way contributed men's rhythmic gymnastics.

FIG took Parkour under its wings as a gymnastic discipline, supporting and contributing for this new style, yet they don't have the time to make rhythmic gymnastics, and older discipline, inclusive and up to date with the social changes and advances in regards to gender-roles.

We encourage every little boy that wants to be one with the apparatuses and express themselves through rhythmic gymnastics routines to keep fighting and keep training. Rhythmic gymnastics is not for women, its for gymnasts.


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