Born December 25, 1963, Anelia
Ralenkova became one of Bulgaria's most distinctive rhythmic
gymnasts. She led the Bulgarian contingent from 1981 until 1984,
winning an incredible 10 gold medals in World and European
A native of Sofia, Ralenkova rose
to prominence in her first major international event. At the 1981
World Championships, she won the all-around title, and followed
that up with a gold (clubs), two silvers (rope, hoop), and a
bronze (ribbon) in apparatus finals. More importantly, she
distinguished herself with cutting-edge difficulty and inimitable
The 1982 European Championships
were just as successful for Ralenkova, who placed first in the
all-around and with rope and hoop, and second with clubs. But at
the 1983 World Championships, Ralenkova would fumble with ribbon
and be defeated by upstart teammate Diliana Gueorguieva. Ralenkova
shared the silver medal with other teammate Lilia Ignatova and Soviet star
Galina Beloglazova. Ralenkova won a collection of medals in event
finals but was just edged out of every title except hoop (she
also earned bronze for ball, clubs, and ribbon). Especially
disappointing was her loss with clubs. Her quick, intricate
routine was performed spectacularly until the final catch, when
the tiniest of blunders put her in a tie for third.
Ralenkova tied Soviet Galina
Beloglazova for the all-around title at the 1984 European
Championships, a result she strongly contested. The outspoken
Ralenkova remarked, "There is no longer competition
between gymnasts, only competition between judges." She
finished the competition with golds for hoop, ball, and clubs and
a bronze for ribbon -- and an air of dissatisfaction. The
Eastern-bloc boycott of the 1984 Olympics meant that Ralenkova
wouldn't get her rematch with Gueorguieva, and the former world
champion retired later that year, at the age of 21.
Not a single routine of
Ralenkova's can be described as unmemorable. She is most
associated with her passionate 1981 ribbon routine to Ravel's Bolero
and her slinky 1982 ball performance to Gershwin's Summertime,
but two of her 1983 routines - a fast-moving rock 'n' roll clubs
and a ball tango to Jealousy - incited boisterous cheers
at the World Championships is Strasbourg, France. A highly
skilled interpreter of music, Ralenkova was also an excellent
technician. But her gift to gymnastics is indeed her unique
style, which brought to rhythmic a bolder, more modern edge.
In 1990, the U.S. Gymnastics
Federation invited Ralenkova to do clinics, workshops, and sports
promotions in a 35-city tour across the U.S. The Bulgarian master
decided to stay, opening Anelia's
Rhythmic Academy in Remond, Washington,
in 1991. Ralenkova is very active in the US gymnastics scene,
where she believes a rhythmic program will one day flourish.
Interested in RSG? If so,
consider joining Rhythmic Gymnastics World, a monthly e-mail
newsletter containing the latest news briefs, competition
results, gymnast profiles, interviews, editorials, guest
opinions, and other features. To subscribe, send an e-mail to RGWorld@aol.com; include the word "subscribe"
in the subject line, and also include your name and country of
residence (for demographic purposes only) in the body text.
© 1999-2002. This page was created on
September 20, 1999.