TOKYO — The U.S. rhythmic gymnastics team sat in a Deerfield, Ill., gym last fall, listening to song snippet after song snippet as they tried to select music for their Olympic competition.
After years of performing to classical and world pieces, their Russian-born coach Margarita Mamzina agreed to let the women use American pop for one of their two routines in Tokyo. The team had wanted this for so long, but they struggled to find anything that would work.
Then someone played Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” Instantly, they knew they had found their song.
"It’s my life,
it’s now or never.
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive."
“We all started singing along,” gymnast Izzy Connor said. “It spoke to all of us.”
The Tokyo Olympics mark the first time since rhythmic gymnastics’ debut in 1984 that the United States has qualified a full team — two individuals and a group — for the Summer Games. It’s also only the second time the country has qualified for the group event.
The team does not expect to medal here and these gymnasts do not offer platitudes about anything being possible. They arrived in Japan with the candid goal of having “two clean routines” and embracing the Olympic experience.