Rhythmic gymnast twirls her way to the competition podium

Caroline Dozier placed third all around during nationals and will take her talents to the USAG’s Future Stars camp.

Caroline Dozier uses her clubs as she practices her skills for her upcoming USAG Future Stars camp.

Standing on the competition podium was no stretch of the imagination for rhythmic gymnast Caroline Dozier.

As a 12-year-old level 6 rhythmic gymnast, Dozier placed third all around for her level and age group during nationals in Lake Placid, N.Y., in May.

Dozier has since moved up to level 7 and will set out on her journey to the USA Gymnastics Future Stars camp on July 26, where she will join 40 others from around the country to practice her skills with the best in the nation.

The camp will host three days of training, with scouts from the elite squad in attendance, giving Dozier a chance to become an elite squad member.

“She really loves the sport and she’s very committed to it because she enjoys it,” Caroline’s mother, Joy, said. “She’s committed to the point that she studies the sport independently and she is committed to the training.”

Caroline started as an artistic gymnast at the age of 5, while also participating in ballet, jazz and hip hop dance classes. Joy said Caroline didn’t feel particularly committed to one or the other, so they decided to research ways to combine both sports.

They came across rhythmic gymnastics when Caroline was 8 years old, and she has been dedicated to her training ever since.

“Rhythmic is a beautiful sport because you do some of the gymnastics that our country is really accustomed to — the tumbling, the walkovers, the athleticism, the flexibility — and it’s so beautiful because of the dance component to it,” Joy said.

Rhythmic gymnastics incorporates a variety of apparatuses, including the use of a ball, hoop, ribbon, rope and clubs. Those under level 10 also do floor routines at competitions, without the use of equipment.

Caroline trains at Bala Gymnastics, which is led by Bulgarian coaches Valeriya Neikova Shopa and Yoanna Ivanova, and ballet training is taught by Russian trainer Zhanna Palagina. Shopa has been coaching rhythmic gymnasts in the U.S. since 2001 and has been working with Caroline for the past year.

“Caroline is a smart, kind, driven and competitive girl who has many other great qualities and talents, but most importantly she is a very hard-working and genuine young lady,” Shopa said. “Coaching her has been real pleasure because Caroline has great focus and intelligence and follows directions easily which helps her learn fast. Her passion and dedication to rhythmic gymnastics has led to her success in the sport so far.”

Training is held five to six times per week to keep flexibility at its peak for the competition season.

“My goal is to be good at the sport while still loving it,” Caroline said. “I just really love it, it’s a lot of fun.”

Caroline will continue to train in the sport and hopes to reach level 10, where many rhythmic gymnasts begin to train to be an Olympian.

“I hope she meets her own personal goals and that she continues to enjoy the sport,” Joy said.