The names of the gymnasts selected to represent Team Wales at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will be revealed on 15th June – and rhythmic star Elizabeth Popova will hope to be among them.
Carmarthen-born Elizabeth is in her first year as a senior gymnast and doesn’t turn 16 until the end of November. She is a double Welsh junior rhythmic all-around champion and in 2019 went to the World Junior Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships.
Elizabeth was named in the British Rhythmic Senior Squad for 2022 and back in April also made her first senior FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup appearance competing for Great Britain at the series event in Sofia, Bulgaria – her parents’ homeland.
“It was a very proud moment,” she said.
“I learnt so much from the experience with so many iconic gymnasts competing alongside me, while also being able to share this moment with my family who live in Bulgaria.
“It was really a surreal experience, and I’d love to do it all again.”
Elizabeth is coached by her mother Ioana, herself an ex-international gymnast, who is also the former national choreographer for Wales and worked with the Welsh Commonwealth Games teams in 1998 and 2002.
In recent years Ioana also been a high performance rhythmic coach and national judge.
Elizabeth’s father was a professional basketball player in Bulgaria and her older brother Chris, 17, is a talented footballer.
Wales youth international Chris signed a professional contract with Premier League club Leicester City in February and has been in excellent goalscoring form for their Under-18 side this season having made the switch from Manchester United’s academy last summer.
Elizabeth is attached to Llanelli Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy but is based in the north west of England, where she also trains predominately.
An ankle injury forced her to miss the Rhythmic British Championships in Telford a fortnight ago and this weekend’s Welsh Rhythmic Championships in Cardiff also comes just too soon for Elizabeth as she edges closer to a return.
She remains though firmly in contention for selection and, on the prospect of securing her spot on Team Wales for Birmingham, she said: “It would mean so much to myself and my family to be selected for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“Throughout my whole career, my family and I have put in so much work and dedication towards my successes, as well as sacrificing so much in order to be where I am today.
“As we come closer to the selection, I am very motivated to come back even stronger. This has been my first experience of the lead up and preparation to the Games and it is all very exciting as get closer to the event.
“I would love to be able to represent Team Wales and put forward my best performance for the team.”