Rhythmic gymnastics’ inaugural Piala Puteri to help shape stronger, more confident, driven women

The excitement was visible on their faces. Their eyes transfixed on four-time world champion Tamara Yerofeyeva.

There were audible gasps of “oohs” and “waaahs” as she twirled, danced, jumped, and displayed her agility and dexterity with the various rhythmic gymnastics apparatus that left 60 junior gymnasts wondering how she could be so good.

Yerofeyeva was in Malaysia last week to help launch the inaugural Piala Puteri Championship, a youth tournament scheduled from Dec 12-17 at the Axiata Arena, in Bukit Jalil.

The brainchild of former national gymnast Sarina Sundara Rajah, and four years in the making, Piala Puteri hopes to “empower young girls, giving them a platform to compete and showcase their talent”.

Three young talents who are looking forward to Piala Puteri are (main image, clockwise) Elyse So Tze Yan, Zaheera Nasreen Zameen Ismail and Eleanor Teoh Mohammad Wafiy of the Sarina Rhythmic Gymnastics Club (SRGC).

They were present at the launch and attended the Master Class sessions by Yerofeyeva last Saturday and Sunday.

So, 17, said meeting Yerofeyeva was a huge motivation for her and her fellow gymnasts.

“She just wowed us with her moves,” said So, who added she could not believe the 41-year-old Yerofeyeva was still performing with Cirque Du Soleil.

“I cannot believe we had the opportunity to meet a four-time world champion. It is all thanks to SRGC and Piala Puteri.

“This tournament is a good opportunity to showcase our skills. Who knows? Maybe the national coaches can spot some new talents at the event.”

Pint-sized Eleanor and Zaheera could hardly contain their excitement, gleefully prancing around the hall, feeling 10 metres tall.

“She was just so wonderful and friendly,” gushed Eleanor. “It was a rare opportunity to meet someone like her. I hope to be as good as Tamara when I grow up.”

Yerofeyeva and Niloy Banerjee, the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam, also held Power Talk sessions with the gymnasts.

Zaheera said: “Listening to her gave us some insights into what it takes to be a champion. We learnt quite a bit in such a short time.

“I am now looking forward to the Piala Puteri.”

Meanwhile, Sarina said Piala Puteri is owned and led by SRGC in a strategic partnership with the Youth and Sports Ministry.

The aim is to turn it into a league with several competitions nationwide.

“The platform aims to shape young champions who bring beauty, grace, and talent to rhythmic gymnastics,” said Sarina, a member of the Malaysia team that won gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

“At SRGC, we believe youth sports should be fun and engaging. While winning is great, it is about creating meaningful experiences, learning resilience, and upholding values that allow us to be our best selves.

“We can all do our part to empower young women and girls in our community and show them what is possible through sports. It starts with the culture we create on our teams.”

Sarina said that amazing things happen when we allow girls to play sports.

“Female coaches are instrumental in encouraging young girls to participate in sports, which play a crucial role in their development,” Sarina said, emphasising the transformative power of such an investment.

“The phrase ‘If You Can See It, You Can Be It’ highlights the importance of representation.

“We plan to touch the lives of more young girls aspiring to be rhythmic gymnasts through the Piala Puteri initiatives. By keeping girls in sports, we are helping to shape a future of stronger, more confident, and driven women.”

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