As a young athlete in her native Greece, Nota Klentrou couldn’t have guessed that a painful dismount would one day lead her to Namibia.
At age 12, Klentrou had a promising future in artistic gymnastics. She had the strong, slight physique, but not, as she learned, the nerves of steel.
She injured her ankle, but proceeded to compete on the asymmetric bars anyway. Despite her dismount, which sent her tumbling injured to the floor, she gave valuable points to her team but missed the individual medal.
But it was the feeling of fear when performing on the balance beam that made her switch discipline. In fact, she was among the first in Greece to practice a new sort of gymnastics – one just as challenging, but with ropes, hoops and ribbons. She became one of the Greece’s international rhythmic gymnasts.
Children around the world are now benefiting from Klentrou’s expertise in the sport. With input from her peers, the chair of the Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology has developed the curriculum, technical manual and recourse CD for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Coaching Academy and Age Development program. The materials teach rhythmic gymnastics coaching in developing countries.
On a recent trip abroad with the FIG’s International Coaching Academy in Namibia, she helped train about 23 coaches who will establish rhythmic gymnastics programs in their home communities. In developing countries, many of the children who benefit from athletics are orphans or come from large single-parent families. Many suffer from physical ailments.
Physical activity improves a child’s self esteem and wellbeing. Rhythmic gymnastics is particularly beneficial, Klentrou said, and this method pays special attention to a child's healthy growth and development.
“It can be used as an intense-intermittent or continuous activity, and it is an excellent way to develop children’s fine motor co-ordination, hand/eye co-ordination and spacial awareness,” she said.
Klentrou has hung up her coaching hat, but her expertise remains in demand. In 2004, she acted as the results supervisor for all gymnastic disciplines at the Olympic Games in Athens.
Her research is in the area of pediatric exercise physiology with a focus on the healthy development of young athletes.