When Evita Griskenas was a child, she drew images of herself not just as an Olympian, but as an Olympic medalist.
“There’s drawings that I would make when I was little of me standing on a little podium like holding a medal and on the bottom of it the caption says like ‘Olympics,'” the young, first-time Olympian from Orland Park told NBC Chicago.
Now, as the 20-year-old rhythmic gymnast prepares to compete on her biggest stage yet, she’s nearly brought her childhood drawing to life. The only thing missing? A medal — for now.
“It feels thrilling, but also in a way, full of responsibility because now I’m not only responsible to myself and my family and, you know, my coaches and stuff, but also to my country and to represent rhythmic gymnastics like from USA is a really big deal to me and I want to do the best that I can do when I perform,” she said.
Griskenas described rhythmic gymnastics as a combination of “gracefulness and elegance” mixed with “lots of strength.”
“There’s lots of cross training that’s involved that incorporates ballet technique and dance, as well as, again, lots of like strength training and conditioning,” she said.
But in a way, she exudes that balance of strength and gracefulness in her own life, too, whether it be listening to classical music as she practices – her go-to song being “Arrival of the Birds” – or writing poetry and journaling.
But when it comes to strength, she’s not shy about what she can do. Ask her to pick the most challenging element of her sport and you’ll likely get an answer like this.
“I wouldn’t say anything’s like difficult in that… like it’s difficult, but it’s not something that’s something I can’t overcome or work with,” she said.
Her mantra? I can. I will. I must.
Griskenas is one of nine local Olympians from the North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, but only she and one other teammate will compete individually in the sport.
While Tokyo will hardly be the four-time Pan American gold medalist’s first competition abroad, it was supposed to mark a different first for her: the first time her family would be able to join her out of the country. But as the Tokyo Games won’t be allowing spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that will no longer be the case.
“I know they’re super supportive and very excited and definitely on the emotional side, for sure,” Griskenas said, noting that her parents will be joining a watch party instead.
But for her family and her fans, she has one message to share as she takes on the global competition.
“I appreciate each and every single one of you and your support genuinely means a lot to me,” she said. “And when I see your messages or just even know that you guys are watching I feel very full and I hope that when I perform you can feel that sort of emotion being given back to you guys.”