When Cristiano Ronaldo showed up at Expo 2020 Dubai two weeks ago, there was, unsurprisingly, a frenzy to catch a glimpse of one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Before that, superstars like Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt had been among the many athletes to visit the exhibition.
Expo 2020 provided a platform for participating nations to showcase the best of their athletes to live audiences.
This week, Bulgaria’s rhythmic gymnastics team that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics performed for the public for two nights, including one on the country’s special Expo day.
“It was a real pleasure to be part of Expo 2020 in Dubai and perform two evenings representing Bulgaria,” said Simona Dyankova, who was joined by her colleagues Stefani Kiryakova and Erika Zafirova at the Bulgarian pavilion.
“The experience has been amazing. The crowd was very lively and we were warmly welcomed. We are extremely impressed with the hospitality and the hope of Expo 2020 coming back soon.
For the young athletes, it was a chance to receive the accolades that years of hard work – and eventually success – deserved, but were denied as they performed and received their gold medals behind closed doors. in Japan.
“We have been together since 2016 until the Olympics,” Dyankova said. “Because the Olympics were postponed for a year, we had two years to prepare for this incredible routine that we did. And it was changing all the time during those two years, getting more and more complicated for it to be perfect.
The delay caused by the pandemic has had its negative and positive aspects.
“At the beginning it was very difficult for us of course, knowing that it is postponed with that year, it was difficult to accept it,” said Zafirova. “Also, it was very difficult to train together because we couldn’t train in the gym. But actually this year gave us time to do all the amazing things and gave us the opportunity to indulge in the games.
Dyankova added: “It was very difficult for us too because there were also rumors that there would be no Olympics at all, which was a bit heartbreaking after all these hours…but we tried not to be careful and stay towards our goal.”
The team always believed that the rescheduled matches in 2021 would be their moment of glory.
“Even though we thought we could win at the Olympics, at the same time, it seemed really impossible that it could be done,” Kiryakova said. “Actually, the gold medal, we didn’t win it in Bulgaria at all, and we really wanted to bring that to Bulgaria and be proud of it. And we knew we had a very good chance because we had really the most complicated routine of all, and we knew it was really difficult, but (that) if we did it perfectly, we should win.
The realization that they had claimed the top spot on the podium took a long time to sink in.
“There’s one word I can say about it, (it) felt like a miracle,” Kiryakova said. “It’s like something amazing happened, like you weren’t grounded. The feeling was really amazing.
At that time, the effort, through all the doubts caused by the delay, was justified for the athletes.
“During these two years, we imagined this moment so many times,” Dyankova said. “When it really happened, I felt like all the work we put into it was worth it. Finally, we managed to achieve our dreams.
And how does it feel to represent Bulgaria at Dubai Expo?
“We were really happy to be here, it’s our first time in Dubai and we really like it,” Dyankova said. “We are really happy to have been chosen to represent Bulgaria, because we have already shown that we can do it in the best possible way.”