To be successful, Rhythmic Gymnasts need to achieve a perfect balance of strength and flexibility. On January 27th, fifteen members of the National Team took part in the first-ever Physical Preparation testing program during the January National Team Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY. This program, the brainchild of coaches and the sports medicine staff, is designed to help athletes improve fundamental strength, reduce their risk of injury, raise the international preparation of U.S. rhythmic gymnasts, and improve the longevity of the rhythmic gymnast’s career.
Researched and led by Elizabeth Darling, the program targets areas like core (spine and abdominal) stability, foot and ankle stability, muscle imbalances in the hip and trunk, and examines flexibility in the spine, shoulders, and hips.
The test, which consists of thirteen stations, has a maximum score of 100 points; athletes score higher if they are stable in their core, flexible on both sides of their body, and strong in their foot and ankle.
About Elizabeth Darling: Elizabeth Darling has been involved in rhythmic gymnastics for 20 years. She was a competitive athlete and competed at the 1991 Pan American Games and in the 1992 World Championships. She judged levels 5-8 for 11 years. She is a physical therapist and athletic trainer in Erie, PA, and has been the athletic trainer for the U.S. Rhythmic National Team at every World Championships since 2003.
In addition to her work with USAG, she has also worked with USA Diving and was their trainer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Dr. Darling is the clinic director of two physical therapy offices in Northwestern Pennsylvania. She treats a variety of orthopedic disorders and a wide range of athletes. She is an orthopedic clinical specialist and certified lymphedema therapist.
Her specialty is treating gymnasts and dancers. She is currently a staff member in Mercyhurst University’s Dance Department. She has worked with the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Company, River North Dance Company, the Broadway touring companies of Movin’ Out, The Lion King, The Color Purple, and Wicked.