Blood, sweat and tears fuel a Belarussian gymnast's Olympic dream

Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:43am EDT
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By Vasily Fedosenko

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta was just three years old when a trainer spotted her potential as she walked past a local gym with her mother and invited her to enroll.

Staniouta, now 22, went on to win all-around bronze medals in the 2010, 2013 and 2015 world championships. Now her sights are set on the Rio Olympics.

In the all-around category, Staniouta will be eager to show off her flexibility while attempting jumps, flips and tumbles in time to music while throwing and catching apparatus such as a rope, hoop, ball, clubs or a ribbon.

"Sometimes you're just praying to get to the end of the routine," Staniouta said.

"You get a lot of injuries. I chipped a bit off my metatarsal bone in 2010 during a routine. I put the operation off until I finished the competition. The longer you do the sport, the more problems you get," she said.

To see a Reuters Wider Image photo essay on Staniouta, click:

Photos show her training and competing, as well as trying on her official Olympic uniform and getting ready for a photo shoot.

Staniouta said rhythmic gymnastics is not particularly popular in Belarus, so she is grateful to supporters in Spain, where the sport has a larger following.   Continued...

Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 27, 2016. Picture taken May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko