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Bangkok Faces: Olga Balachina, Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach

Your Name: Olga Balachina

Job Title: Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach/Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer, Universe Gymnastics (Pattaya & Bangkok)

What is your nationality and background?

I am a Russian. Born and raised in Moscow. Graduated from Moscow Sports Academy. Been working in Gymnastics/Fitness field for the last 20 years.

What is your profession?

I am a Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach/Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer

What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

A good coach is a mentor to a child and is responsible for his or her growth, well-being and safety. It is very important to know about physiology and the human body. A coach needs to know how to push a child a little further, beyond their capabilities, but without injuring the body. Only proper physical education and years of experience can give a good sense of judgment on how much is too much.

Also it is very important for a coach to be a role model, friend and motivator to a child. As much as I try to make my classes interactive and exciting, sport is not always fun. Competition can be a very nerve racking experience. Having a good supportive coach gives the child a lot of confidence, takes off some pressure and helps them grow.

How did you get involved in your profession?

My parents took me to the Olympic Reserve School next to my house when I was 5 years old. I started winning local competitions at a very young age. By 16, I earned “Master of Sport” – an honorable title in Russian sport career. That same year I started my coaching and fitness career and never stopped ever since.

How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?

Participation in gymnastics helps children become physically active, and stay fit and healthy. I think many will agree with me that Rhythmic Gymnastics is one of the most beautiful sports for girls. Beautiful posture, flexibility and fit body will stay with the girls for a lifetime.

What challenges do your face in this role?

One of the biggest challenges I face here in Asia is to raise my own champions. As a majority of my children are expats, their families stay in Thailand only temporarily. By the time I see that a child has a bright future in gymnastics and we start wining competitions together, very often the family has to leave. It is always very emotional for me to let my children go. At the moment, I have a group of talented girls who have been training in Universe Pattaya for the last 3 years. They are very promising and already taking places in local competitions. I really hope this group stays with me for many more years and I see them grow and progress in the international gymnastics scene. And of course, I hope to raise more little champions here in Bangkok.

What do you hope to achieve within your industry?

I really hope to develop the gymnastics scene in Thailand the same way it has been developed in Russia. In Russia, gymnastics is not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle. There are boarding schools for talented kids where they train free of charge. There are gymnastics summer camps, gymnastics events and competitions all year around. It is one of the most popular sports in Russia. I really hope, with my efforts and hard work, that we can contribute to the same level of popularity of gymnastics in Thailand as it is in Russia.

Who or what inspires you?

Irina Viner – president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation and head coach of the Russian national team. She raised several Olympic champions and took soviet gymnastics to a whole new level. Today Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics is one of the most “fashionable” and popular sports amongst girls. She is a very talented and inspiring woman who achieved a lot in life.

Only a Bangkok local would know…

The best “free” gym in Bangkok is “Lumpini Park”. Mummies don’t need to buy an expensive membership to be fit or pay for a nanny to watch the kids while you work out. Just put your trainers on, take your kids and their bicycles – and go ahead!

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