The rise of Darja Varfolomeev

Rising German star Darja Varfolomeev was unstoppable last summer in Spain, winning five individual gold medals at the 2023 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships – a complete sweep of the event. Varfolomeev is the first German rhythmic gymnast to win a world gold medal since 1975 and only the second in history to sweep all of the individual medals (adding her name right next to Russian Olympic great Evgeniya Kanaeva). Heading into her first Olympic Games, Varfolomeev, who is coached by 2000 Olympic all-around silver medalist Yulia Raskina, is poised to be a real medal threat.

Post-Tokyo retirements

Linoy Ashram of Israel, who made headlines in Tokyo by becoming the first woman from her country to win an Olympic gold medal, announced her retirement in 2022. In a press conference, Linoy cited her desire to begin coaching. "An athlete needs to know when to retire," Linoy said. "I have fulfilled my dream. I will continue, but on the other side."

Also retiring post-Tokyo was Olympic all-around silver medalist and 18-time world champion Dina Averina, along with her twin sister and five-time world champion Arina Averina. According to the Russian news agency TAAS, the President of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation Irina Viner said, "The girls told me today that they would not compete any longer." 

Evita Griskenas punches second Olympic ticket

Evita Griskenas of the United States is going back to the Olympics, this time as the sole representative for the U.S. in rhythmic gymnastics. 

Griskenas, who placed 12th in the rhythmic all-around final in Tokyo, qualified for Paris during her final opportunity, grabbing the one available spot at the 2023 Pan American Games where she secured a silver medal in the all-around.

As she gears up for her second appearance at the Games, Griskenas wants to the world to know just how much work goes into her craft. 

"I wish they knew that it was more than just dance," Griskenas told NBC Olympics. "And there's nothing wrong with dance, we incorporate dance - actually it's encouraged - but there's a lot of cross training that is involved; a lot of hours. People don't realize that once you do this, it's literally your entire lifestyle. You wake up at 6 a.m. and you're in the gym. You have double trainings - each one is between four to six hours - and you have a short break in between. Even the Olympic day, we compete for eight hours straight. We walk out, we're perfect, beautiful and then we just disappear behind the curtain. You don't see us working that entire time. In a basketball game, you see the players playing ... For us, you don't see us, but we're back there. And we're drilling our routines."