Young gymnasts during their awards ceremony with members of the audience visible in the background. Photo by Shelley Jacklin
Friday, 20 May 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 20 2022
Kalev Estienne hosted the Koop Cup International Invitational Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition in person at the Markham Pan Am Centre on April 28th to May 1st and online on May 6th. Over 700 gymnasts participated. On the Sunday, after the spectacular AGG and Senior High-Performance competitions, the ceremonial part of the event started with a congratulatory video from the Mayor of Markham, Frank Scarpitti, a longtime supporter of the sport and a great friend of Evelyn’s. Ülle Träss, a long time Kalev Board Member then spoke of Evelyn Koop’s achievements over the years and her fabulous contribution to the development of rhythmic gymnastics in Canada and Internationally. Evelyn Koop then took over the microphone and thanked the audience, the parents, the gymnasts and the entire gymnastics community. She also had special words of thanks for Meet Director Janika Mölder.
Rhythmic gymnastics in Canada simply wouldn’t exist if it weren't for the efforts of Evelyn Koop. Known as "The Godmother" of the sport in Canada, Evelyn is recognized as being instrumental in developing the sport in North America and she has fostered its growth around the world. She has also successfully advocated for it to become an Olympic sport.
In 1951 the Kalev Sport Club was founded by Idla students and included both men’s and women’s gymnastics as well as folk dancing and in the late 50s the Kalev Estienne Modern Gymnastics Club was founded by Evelyn Koop. What was then “modern gymnastics” is now known as rhythmic gymnastics and Evelyn Koop has been working hard ever since to build the club’s legacy as one of Canada's most prominent Rhythmic Gymnastics Centres.
In 1968 Evelyn founded the Ontario Modern Gymnastics Federation. That same year she also travelled to the Mexico Olympics with the Canadian Arts Council. It was there that she first met Teresa McDonnell who was competing in artistic gymnastics for Canada. Teresa, now last name Orr, is currently the National Team Director for Rhythmic Gymnastics for Gymnastics Canada and she is an honoured guest at this year’s Koop Cup Competition.
In 1971 Evelyn Koop, with strong support from Marta Selmetsky from Ontario and Zladiska Stauder from Manitoba, founded the Canadian Modern Gymnastics Federation .
By 1974 the Ontario Federation had approximately 3000 members and the national federation had over 4000 members. Evelyn Koop continued to serve both federations as President until 1980 when she became Executive Director for the Ontario Modern Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation.
In Evelyn Koop’s pursuit of making rhythmic gymnastics an official Olympic sport, she campaigned tirelessly and in 1976 she succeeded in demonstrating the sport at the opening ceremonies of the Montreal Olympics. In 1976 Evelyn Koop was also elected to the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) Technical Committee.
In 1978 Evelyn Koop hosted the first event under the name “Four Continent Championships” in Toronto in order to give non-European gymnasts a chance at earning medals.
In 1978 Evelyn Koop was awarded the FIG Medal for Achievement in recognition of her work in developing the sport in China and her influence in the development of the rhythmic gymnastics discipline in the USA.
In 1991 Evelyn Koop created “The World’s Best” an international invitational competition that was held in Toronto. This same competition was later renamed the KOOP CUP – in her honour, with the first Koop Cup taking place in 2001.
In 2003 Evelyn Koop and her local peers came together to form the Canadian Federation of Aesthetic Group Gymnastics and Kalev and Ritmika co-hosted the 2008 AGG World Championships in Toronto.
Over the course of her life Evelyn has received many honours and awards as the impact of her work was recognized by others. These awards are too numerous to list since there are over 35 awards, however, The Queen Elizabeth 25th Jubilee Award, the Governor General of Canada Award and the Sports Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award need to be mentioned.
Evelyn Koop’s vision has brought Canadian RG athletes to the world stage, and has raised the profile and access to the sport world-wide.
Kalev gymnasts have competed at 17 World Championship events and Kalev gymnasts are usually part of the Canadian National team.
Evelyn’s enthusiasm and love for the sport has influenced generations of young women, increasing their levels of fitness, performance skills and self-esteem, and helping them achieve recognition for their efforts at the highest levels. Under the leadership of Evelyn Koop, tens of thousands of gymnasts have come to share her love of the sport.
Evelyn continues her mission to this day, as administrator, event manager and most importantly as one of the major promotors of Rhythmic Gymnastics in Canada. Her club continues to host Provincial, National and International events.
Many of Evelyn’s former gymnasts are still with her as coaches, in her performance groups, as staff, or return as dedicated volunteers that assist with the hosting of her successful events.
Evelyn Koop is 91 and will be 92 next month. She is still going strong and we cannot wait to see what she will accomplish next. She is truly an inspiration and a legend in her own time.
A great shot of Carmel Kallemaa during her hoop routine at the recent 2022 Koop Cup Competition. Photo by Shelley Jacklin
Evelyn Koop and the top 8 Senior High Performance All-Around gymnasts during the awards ceremony. Carmel Kallemaa, 4th from the left, won all-around Gold at the 2022 Koop Cup Competition. Photo by Tommy Ray Loite