By Tom Harle
Virtuoso gymnast Marfa Ekimova feels her musical background helped her hit the high notes with a historic Commonwealth gold.
The Welling star was crowned all-around champion in rhythmic gymnastics at the summer’s Games in Birmingham, the first English athlete to claim the title.
The 17-year-old also led Team England to bronze in the team event.
Rhythm is hardwired in the Russia-born youngster who has played the piano since the age of four, still plays the bassoon and whose parents are a conductor and opera singer.
She said: “I was a very energetic child. I always wanted to dance and sing and music is my passion alongside gymnastics.
“My parents have definitely always pushed me to the maximum. Music is quite competitive in a different way to sport, the way you have to push and practice for hours and hours.
“They’ve shown me anything can be possible and I’ve learned so much from them as well as my coaches.
SportsAid is delighted to reveal the 🔟 talented young athletes on the shortlist for the One-to-Watch Award 2022 🏆
The annual award shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of Britain’s brightest sporting prospects 👏
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— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 1, 2022
“I eat, sleep and think about sport all the time. I’m thinking about my routines in my head when I sleep, but having music helps me switch off.”
Ekimova made a brilliant start to her season in May by becoming British senior all-around champion after an inspired performance in Telford.
She has also banked more experience at major competitions, returning to the World and European Championship stage in 2022.
Her hero in rhythmic gymnastics is Linoy Ashram, the Israeli who broke a generation of Russian dominance by winning all-around Olympic gold in Tokyo.
Ekimova said: “It’s absolutely amazing because I watch these gymnasts on YouTube and then they’re practising next to me.
“It’s amazing, it keeps me motivated to feel the experience again. I want to stand next to them, no matter how young or old you are, you can achieve anything.
“Linoy has proven anything is possible and she is definitely an inspirational person for me.”
Ekimova enjoyed a brilliant year despite ongoing challenges with injury and the availability of training facilities at her base in West London.
She will now push on towards the next Olympics in Paris, developing new routines and aiming to attend as many World Cup events as possible to qualify for 2024.
Ekimova’s superb 2022 has been rewarded with nomination for SportsAid’s annual One-to-Watch Award, shortlisted in the top 10 from a raft of 1,000 young athletes supported by the charity across 60 different sports.
The award was launched in 2006 to shine a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of Britain’s brightest young prospects, with Tom Daley, Hollie Arnold, Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill, Morgan Lake and Alex Yee among the former winners.
Ekimova, who received her SportsAid support through the Backing The Best programme this year, said: “I feel so lucky to be nominated in the top 10 of over a thousand amazing SportsAid athletes. Seeing my name there is a massive honour.
“It’s very motivating to see that my achievements have been rewarded.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, supported by Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Thursday 17 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.