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Haifa Niegas of UAE competing in the GCC Grand Series Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship at Al Nasr sport hall. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Young gymnasts from the region showcased their immense talents in the GCC Grand Series Championship of Rhythmic Gymnastics where Haifa Niegas and Meira Menon took the overall honours in their respective age-group categories at the Al Nasr Club last weekend.

About 300 participated in the championship, organised by the Youth Olympic School of Rhythmic Gymnastics in collaboration with Dubai Sports Council (DSC), classified into A & B categories for gymnastics clubs and C category for school players from the age of 5 to 16 years old. They competed in free hand, ball, rope, hoop, tape and several other styles, which were chosen by the participants from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE are taking part in the two-day event.

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Haifa Niegas with a score of 64.550 won the all-round title in the 2011 age group, which saw 15 gymnasts competing for the coveted A category title. Lamia Tariq Malallah, the National gymnast of the UAE, clinched the second place with a score of 63.200, while Ksenya Mildova finished third with 60.500.

In 2012 A category for all-round, first place went to Meira Menon with a score of 40.200, second place for Elena Loginova with a score of 39.750 and third place went to Cain Christina Marie with 39.450.

Meria Menon
Meira Menon won the GCC Grand Series 2012 A Category title. Image Credit: Supplied

Winners of the various categories were honoured by Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of DSC, Naser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant Secretary General of DSC, in the presence of Tariq Malallah, Head of the Championship’s Organising Committee.

Rapid strides

Haifa Niegas, a half Iraqi and half Filipina and born in Philippines and raised in Abu Dhabi, turned to rhythmic gymnastics and made rapid progress from a beginner to an advanced group in just three months. Niegas first took part in an international competition in Baku and won the first and second places among 18 participants in 2019. After a break during Covid, Niegas finished overall champion in the Stryx competition and Dubai school games before winning the GCC Grand Series overall title.

“Whenever I get good places in competitions, I’m overwhelmed that my hard work has paid off. I always look for improvement and find ways to get better. I’m grateful for my parents’ efforts and support and thankful for my coaches at Aram Gymnastics Club. My dream is to compete at world championships, sea games, Asian games and Olympic Games,” said the Repton School Abu Dhabi student.

Lamia Tariq Malallah
Lamia Tariq Malallah in action during the 2011 A category during the GCC Grand Series. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

UAE gymnast Lamia dropped an apparatus during her routine and that cost her the crucial points and finished second.

Winning and losing are part of life

Talking about her performance, Lamia said: “Winning and losing are part of an athlete’s life. You should be proud of yourself on your performance and it doesn’t matter what place you get,” said the 11-year-old, showing great maturity beyond her age. “Though I am not happy with what I did in Dubai, I am quite nervous, excited and proud to represent UAE in the FIG competition in Singapore later this month,” said the Dubai Youth Olympic School of Rhythmic Gymnastics club trainee.

The prestigious FIG event will be conducted by Bianka Panova Academy, which is one the best in the world, from December 16-18.

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Layan Behbehani of Kuwait competing in the event that has attracted around 300 participants from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Meira Menon, another gymnast from Dubai Youth Olympic School of Rhythmic Gymnastics club, took the top honours in the 2012 A category, edging out fellow clubmate Elena Loginova.

Aim to represent India

“I feel very happy with my performance as I won it. My aim is to represent India,” said the Grade 5 Dubai International Academy student.

Meira has won Gymnastica competition in Dubai and also plans to compete in the FIG competition in Singapore, apart from other Indian and international competitions.

Elena Loginova
Elena Loginova feels proud of her performance in the GCC Grand Series after finishing second in the 2012 A Category. Image Credit: Supplied

Her clubmate Elena said: “I feel really good and proud of myself,” said the Grade 5 Horizon English School student, who finished second behind Meira and also has the experience of taking part in several other competitions in UAE and in Moscow.

The championship acquires special importance, since it meets the needs of growth, taking into account that the number of rhythmic gymnastics academies and schools in Dubai have exceeded 53 in numbers.