Mila Marinova (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano


Photo by Tom Theobald.
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Mila Marinova might not have become one of the celebrated Bulgarian world champions, but she became something even more impressive: a multiple World and European Championship medalist, top-notch coach, entrepreneur, and one of the most notable comeback stories in the history of rhythmic.

Born June 3, 1974, Mila Marinova showed star potential early on. At just 14 years old, the lively Bulgarian took 1st place in the junior division of the 1988 Intervision Cup. She followed up with a silver medal in the all-around of the 1989 Junior European Championships, and also won gold medals with rope, hoop, and ball.

A native of Sofia, Marinova was a fixture in the top international standings in 1990. She became the Bulgarian National Champion, won the Julieta Shishmanova Cup, came in 4th at the European Gymnastics Masters, and placed 2nd at the Goodwill Games. She also began amassing a collection of apparatus medals, including two golds and five silvers. At the 1991 Brother Cup she finished 4th in the all-around, then moved up to third at the European Cup -- where she won golds for hoop and ball and a silver for rope -- as well as at the European Gymnastics Masters.

The 1991 World Championships were Marinova's test of skill. She performed superbly, but was simply outdone by Oksana Skaldina and Alexandra Timochenko. Marinova also took second with hoop and clubs and third with ball, but couldn't erase her disappointment. Feeling that she wasn't making enough progress, she retired and headed for the United States.

As a coach at International Rhythmic Gymnastics in Jacksonville, Florida, Marinova helped train several gymnasts onto the US National Team. She and her husband now have a son, Jordan, and Marinova recently opened her own Jacksonville gymnastics club called World Rhythmics by Mila.

In 1999, at the age of 25, Marinova made a competitive comeback -- after 8 years of retirement. She performed at the San Francisco Invitational, where she placed 7th, and went on to finish 4th at the US National Championships. Her signature flexibility, difficulty, and fiery, aggressive style are still part of her gymnastics, but Mila has also added a smooth, mature performance quality that was lacking in her younger years. Many fans thought she couldn't possibly top her classic, innovative 1990 hoop routine to Blues for Klook, but her dramatic 1999 ribbon and blues-tinged, passionate 1999 ball certainly challenge that theory.

Marinova was not able to compete for her new country at the 1999 World Championships since she was not yet a US citizen, but she is set to attain her citizenship at the end of the year. She will definitely be a strong contender for the 2000 US Olympic Team.

Update (January 22, 2001). Mila is working hard to increase public awareness of her sport. Not only has Marinova been teaching youngsters at her own Florida gym -- World Rhythmics opened its doors in 2000 -- but now she has taken her "show" on the road to local schools. Most recently, Marinova's pupils performed for the students of Lake Asbury Elementary School, where they were such a hit that World Rhythmics received several new gym enrollments.

Update (February 27, 2001). Mila Marinova is reportedly weighing the choice of a time-out or a full retirement. Since emigrating to the U.S. in 1993, Marinova, 26, has lent a hand in the training of several National Team members, as well as the youngsters who practice at her new club, World Rhythmics in Jacksonville, Florida. Despite Marinova's bronze-medal finish at the 2000 National Championships and recent successes in exhibition performances, the Sofia, Bulgaria, native is said to be scaling back her competitive schedule in order to spend more time with her students and her two-year-old son, Jordan.

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1999-2002. This page was created on October 29, 1999 and last updated on February 28, 2001.


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