For a rhythm of all … and all

His name is Ander Olcoz, he is from Tafalla (Navarra) and he is 17 years old. At seven, when he still alternated swimming with athletics and most of the boys in the ikastola opted for soccer, basketball or other mainstream sports, he was bitten by the rhythmic gymnastics bug. “One day I went to see my older cousin for training, and I decided to sign up. I did it without knowing absolutely anything about this sport, because I had only seen my cousin that time, nothing more. I started without knowing that it was mostly girls. In fact, when I signed up, everything was female and I was surprised, ”she says by phone.

Since then, Ander prepares and invests hours and hours on the mat like any other gymnast. But he does it, he did it until now in reality, with an immense wall ahead: for the mere fact of being a boy, he could not compete alongside Ane Ariz, Vega Cigudosa, Andrea Herrero and Ane Ibáñez, his teammates from the Lagunak. Fortunately, in 2020 the Spanish Federation of Gymnasium (RFEG) eliminated the norm and two weekends ago, in Valencia, he and his team shone with their own light in the National Team Championship, where they obtained three medals: gold in mixed category, and bronze in open and general.

“As a child, in Navarra I could compete in team competitions, but when I started doing it at the national level, boys were not admitted. Luckily my club [de Barañáin, localidad limítrofe con Pamplona] he has always supported mixed teams even when they were not allowed ”, he says. “I prepared myself knowing that I was not going to be able to show everything that I had worked for during the year, and that is always hard. You asked for an explanation about why you couldn’t compete, and they didn’t give it to you either. It is not the most pleasant thing and in the end you get used to it, but nobody should have to go through that ”, continues the Navarrese, who combines sports with a medium degree in Graphic Design.

Olcoz says that he has not suffered ugly episodes or bad experiences, but that other boys have been rejected or have had to listen to comments. Remember, yes, that a couple of years ago she had to live a surreal episode: “Then, my teammates were proclaimed champions of Spain, but they didn’t let me go down to receive the medal; I couldn’t compete, but I had been working with them all season and had the right to do so, as one more substitute. That day I had to pay the entrance fee and sit in the audience ”.

Since he started, Ander has always had the absolute support of his parents and his brother Ibai. Also that of its coach, Uxue Almiñana. “Sport has no gender, so we integrated him into the team one hundred percent, even though he could not compete officially. What happened in Valencia was very beautiful, it is an honor to convey that message of equality ”, transmits the coach, still excited about the exercise that awarded her team gold in the mixed race.

While her gymnasts did pirouettes and flew hoops and clubs, the inclusive voice of Almudena Cid, the only rhythmic gymnast who has played four Olympic finals, accompanied the music: “Inequality indicates privileges, that’s why change costs so much. But the reality is that together we add. In me, you will always find a place for everyone. And everyone”.

Timidly, Olcoz appreciates that the masculine presence in the rhythm is growing little by little, although he points out that there is still a lot of visibility missing. “At first glance, it is still surprising that a boy does gymnastics, but today it is seen as something more normal and I think things are changing. Before, clubs did not form mixed teams because they had the feeling of wasting time. In 2009, when the Spanish Championship was held for the first time, there were hardly any boys, but now there are many more ”, he indicates, recalling at the same time that rhythmic and synchronized swimming are the only two exclusive Olympic sports in which he competes. exclusively the female sex.

The Spanish Federation (RFEG) It has allowed men to federate since 2009. Although the number of male licenses is increasing, the gap is still very large and taboos continue to disappear. In 2014, the agency registered 1,666 men compared to 22,366 women; two years later, the difference was 2,961-37,105; in 2019 it continued to speak despite reaching the male peak: 4,422-41,462; and in the last fiscal year, the female was reached, 46,521, by 3,290 boys.

“Despite everything, Spain is way ahead in that regard. It is one of the pioneer countries in the development of men’s rhythmic gymnastics; in others, the boys are not even accepted ”, Ander denounces, who in addition to competing also teaches children and concludes:“ Obviously, there are many things to be achieved. I have been fortunate that they have always supported me. To those who are starting I tell them to fight, that if they really like it, do not back down or be afraid ”.

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