Mary Sanders (USA)
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Though she has lived her whole life in Canada, Mary Sanders is the heavy favorite to represent the United States at next summer's Olympic Games.
Sanders, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, earned the USA a berth to Athens with her outstanding performance at the 2003 World Championships in Budapest. In Budapest, Sanders finished eighth in the preliminaries and 10th in the all-around final, and qualified to the finals for the hoop and clubs. Sanders' performance was historic for the United States, which had never previously qualified a rhythmic gymnast to a final in world championship competition.
Though she originally started the sport as an artistic gymnast, Sanders switched to rhythmic gymnastics at age 10 when her coach told she would be better suited for it.
For the past several years, Sanders has trained with Bulgarian native Dimitritchka Masleva at the Ritmika club in Toronto, where she also works with ballet instructor Elvira Budakova.
"I have a great relationship with my coaches," Sanders told IG. "I think in order to be successful in any sport you must love and get along with your coach, or else it will just be a struggle in the gym."
Sanders was introduced to the sport by her father, American Fred Sanders. Fred, a former collegiate champion in trampoline, passed away from cancer when Mary was seven. A few years ago, Sanders began competing in U.S. national competitions to pursue her dream of representing her father's country at the Olympic Games.
"I think my father would be proud," said Sanders.
December 2003 issue of International Gymnast Magazine.
Rhytmic Gymn.>Biography>Sanders, Mary