The Golden Girl of Rythmic Gymnastics

Iliana Raycheva Raeva-Sirakova

a Bulgarian gymnast who started learning rhythmic gymnastics at the age of seven, competed in modern rhythmic gymnastics for her country from 1978 to 1982. Born on March 15, 1963, she grew up to become one of the Golden Girls of Bulgaria that dominated Rhythmic Gymnastics in 1980s.

Sport was not famous in Bulgaria when Iliana started her career, but she won many accolades along the way, including being a world champion. Raised in Sofia, Iliana’s career stretched from 1978 to 1982, and she was never placed lower than 6th in a major competition.
During the European Championships in 1978, Iliana came 4th in the all-around at the World Championships and subsequently won a gold medal for clubs and a silver for ball. She was inspired to do her best, motivated by her father.

Known as the diamond Bulgarian rose, Iliana’s most memorable
moment was in London in 1979 at the Wembley Stadium when
she was 16 and 10,000 spectators protested using drums after the
Referee gave her note that placed her 3rd and requested a change in
the ranking.

GYMNASTICS LEGACY…

For the first time the championship stopped, and the referees had to replay and then for 15 minutes while spectators chanted her name, she kept curtsying and received a higher rank to become the
world championship. It was the public influence that resulted in her having a gold medal.

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