SwissRG-Interview with the FIG President Morinari Watanabe
"Better to promote both group and individual competitions"
By OLIVER DÜTSCHLER, Executive Editor
SwissRG: Dear Mr. Watanabe, as president of the FIG and top gymnast, what is your personal connection to rhythmic gymnastics?
Morinari Watanabe: After I graduated from university, I worked to open RG clubs in Japan in collaboration with a Japanese retail company. Now, there are 50 clubs in Japan with over 8,000 gymnasts. In fact, the individual gymnast who took part in the Rio Olympics is one of my club’s gymnasts.
SwissRG: The significance of the RG is still very modest, especially in Western Europe. What concrete efforts have you been making to promote this beautiful sport (projects, ambassadors, media...)?
Watanabe: Rhythmic Gymnastics is very good sport for girls’ emotional development. Rhythmic Gymnastics perfectly fit lessons for children. Therefore, establishing many private schools and clubs is very important for promoting the sport. In 1992, I established Japan RG Club Federation. Initially there were only 60 clubs in Japan, while now, 20 years after the establishment of the Federation, the number of clubs has reached over 1,000.
SwissRG: The Swiss Gymnastics Federation (STV) has been also making valuable efforts in RG development. After a difficult year, there is a new approach. These efforts are bearing fruit: The 2019 Junior European Championships project was successful.
However, the Swiss concept puts priority on Groups, while Individuals gymnasts will be for the future. The project for Individuals (first of all for juniors) is another option and gives motivation to the youngest and coaches. What do you think of this innovative opening and reorientation? Does it make sense from a sporting point of view to start with the Individuals at the junior level and to let also the door open for Individuals at the senior level?
Watanabe: In Japan, multiple events are conducted depending on gymnasts’ levels such as Child Championships, Junior Championships, Youth Championships and Japan National Championships. In addition, rules vary depending on their ages.
SwissRG: What importance do you attach to the strategic approach of federations - those who present athletes only in one category at the FIG events versus the ones who present athletes in Individuals and in Groups competitions? What added value/opportunities do you see when a country makes efforts to be represented in both categories and seeks to reach the international level?
Watanabe: Some gymnasts are suitable for individual competitions while some for group competitions. I therefore think that it is better to promote both in order to develop each gymnast’s individuality.
SwissRG: The SwissRG website is an exclusive platform for athletes, coaches, officials, federations, fans and above all for sport. Do you like this new SwissRG website?
Watanabe: It is always a great pleasure to see a new website giving information about our beautiful sport. I wish Swiss RG continued success and development.
Foto: Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG)