Tiptoeing on stage with swirls and twirls of her favourite ribbon, performing 180 degree splits, finding time to enjoy horse riding, swimming and attending school are all part of five-year-old Lamia Tariq Ali Abdulla Malallah’s normal weekly routine.
Trained by former world and European champion and founder of the Dubai Youth Olympic School of Rhythmic Gymnastics – Ksenia Dzhalaganiya, Lamia is the UAE’s youngest rhythmic gymnast.
She is also breaking stereotypes and setting an example for young Emirati girls by venturing into a sport that most would have been apprehensive to take up.
But Lamia has plenty of support, especially at home. Her mother Malak Tariq Al Farsi recalls how there were some eyebrows raised when she decided to get her daughter enrolled in a professional programme.
“Some of our family were against it because she is a girl and this sport is extremely grueling and exhaustive,” she said.
“Our traditional background doesn’t allow girls to wear the attire that is expected in competitions, but my husband Tariq Ali Malallah comes from a sporting background and he believes it’s the right for every child to take up what they have a passion for and supported Lamia and encouraged her to go ahead.”
Malak spotted Lamia’s flair for the sport and felt that gymnastics was the perfect outlet for her energetic young girl.
“Lamia has always been an extremely energetic and active child and I had been looking for an outlet where she could use her energy to full potential,” she added.
“I came across the gymnastics trials at Dubai Youth Olympic School and took her along, she aced the test with the director and head coach Ksenia Dzhalaganiya and started training with her in May this year.
“Though she started out as newcomer with no prior training she quickly moved into the senior professional team category.”
Apart from schooling and rhythmic gymnastics, Lamia enjoys horse riding and swimming, but hasn’t really found time to take those up seriously.
Instead she is concentrating on rhythmic gymnastics which combines ballet, dance and acrobatics.
A rhythmic gymnast, ideally, should have the grace of a ballet dancer, the flexibility of an acrobat and ability to match her moves to the music like a break-dancer.
“They are not only taught physically but they are also mentally trained to understand that pain is gain and they have to go through it if they want results,” said Malak.
“Ballet is a part of her training as a gymnast and she is lucky to have a dedicated and extremely skilled coach in Natalia Sokolova.”
Lamia is already looking ahead and wants to quit regular schooling to take up the sport full-time, but her biggest supporters – her parents, have stressed the importance of education. They also feel Lamia is in great hands with Ksenia and hope she can be example for other Emirati children and their families.
Malak added: “She [Ksenia] is working very hard to promote the sport in the UAE, which is not yet familiar with rhythmic gymnastics, so we are hoping through Lamia this sport gets recognised for what it is.”