Elizabeth Koleva (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Born November 11, 1972 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Elizabeth Koleva made her mark on the rhythmic scene with her combination of intricate apparatus work and unsurpassed fluidity of movement. Anna Djarova, the Webmaster for the Bulgarian Gymnastics Federation, perfectly describes Koleva: "She is like a vision, very beautiful and elegant."

Koleva trained from an early age at the Slavia club in Sofia, and advanced quickly through the ranks. At the 1987 Junior European Championships, her sophisticated style and precision won her the overall title, as well as a share of the gold with each of the four apparatus (rope, hoop, ball, ribbon). She advanced to the senior division of the World Championships later that year, and didn't disappoint. Koleva tied teammate Adriana Dunavska for the silver medal in the all-around, then went on to earn bronze for her exquisite ribbon exercise.

In 1988, Koleva was clearly at her peak. She tied Dunavska and rising Soviet star Alexandra Timochenko for the gold at the European Championships, where she displayed some of the most elegant rhythmic gymnastics ever performed. For her beautiful form and expression, Koleva was also awarded a gold with rope and bronze with clubs.

Surprisingly, Elizabeth Koleva, just 16 years old, decided to retire in 1988. Perhaps she felt the pressure of competing alongside teammates Dunavska and Bianka Panova, who were named to the 1988 Bulgarian Olympic Team. Perhaps she wanted to leave the sport while still on top. Nevertheless, it's a shame that such a promising career ended so quickly.

Although all of Koleva's routines bore her inimitable stamp of grace, two stand out. Her slow, stirring 1987 clubs exercise to the music from Swan Lake was a rarity in the rhythmic world not only for its tricky tosses and catches, but also for its refined choreography and Koleva's delicate expression. Another subtle routine, her 1988 hoop, could have been a clinic on flawless form and extension. Her incredibly soft touch and appealing presentation will forever be the standard of finesse that few can achieve.

After her retirement, Koleva became a coach at the club where she trained. She also married Martin Stoev, a volleyball player on the Bulgarian National Team. Koleva now lives in Italy with her husband and daughter, Martina.

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2000-2002. This page was created on February 3, 2000 and last updated on February 5, 2000.


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