Yasmeen Marafie, a Kuwaiti gymnast who made history

  • Publish date: Monday، 28 June 2021 Last update: Wednesday، 24 August 2022
Written by: Noura Al-Swaiti
Photography: Muhammad Jassim
Makeup: Hessah Alsanea
Hair: L’oisaeu Salon
jewelery: Marli
Clothes: Baza Alzouman
Photoshoot location: Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Culture Center

Let’s face it: gymnasts have it all—poise, grace, strength, and not to mention major flexibility. It’s hard not to be captivated by their talent and finesse. Our guest this week does have it all and then some. She has actually made history at the early age of 17 (she’s 18 now). Meet Yasmeen Marafie, Kuwait’s first FIG licensed gymnast, who is also a member of the first Kuwait National Rhythmic Gymnastics team.

3oud.com got the chance to talk to her about how she first got started gymnastics, her advice to someone interested in pursuing a career as a gymnast and much more.

Yasmeen Marafie

1. Tell us a little bit about how you first started gymnastics.

Prior to getting into rhythmic gymnastics, I was a pre-professional classical and contemporary ballet dancer. My move toward rhythmic gymnastics was very natural. As I started taking rhythmic gymnastics classes, originally for flexibility and conditioning, I fell in love with the sport, and started training seriously.

2. What made you want to take up rhythmic gymnastics? What do you like about the sport?

As much as I adore ballet, with its beauty and strength, I fell in love with rhythmic gymnastics, because it takes the challenge of performing to the next level, by adding the rope, ball, clubs, hoop, and ribbon to beautifully choreographed dance routines. Rhythmic gymnastics allowed me to work on sharpening my skills, while also expanding my creative side and coordination.

3. Do your parents support your decision to do gymnastics?

My parents are very supportive of pursuing gymnastics, and sports in general. Both of my parents push me to do better and work, even during times when I’m feeling helpless and unmotivated about training.

4. What does a typical day of rehearsals and training look like for you? How many hours a day do you train?

The past couple of months, I had been healing from an injury to my hips, which was a slow and steady recovery, although I have been getting back to feeling myself again. I am currently training 5-6 days a week, 2 hours a day. Prior to competitions although, it is usually more rigorous, with more being put in a day.

Yasmeen Marafie A Kuwaiti gymnasts who made history 5. How do you manage training while keeping up with your school work?

Being a high school student and a candidate of the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, is very intense. Honestly speaking, I struggled a lot with time management at the beginning of my gymnastic career, although it became a natural part of my schedule, and I learned to schedule everything else around my gymnastics timings.

Most days, before COVID-19, I would get changed right after school and head to gymnastics, so I could finish and have the rest of the day to work on anything I had to complete.

Quarantine took a really big toll on my mental health and just direction of life in general, and during those times, gymnastics was my only escape, even if it was online. I am so grateful for gymnastics for keeping me in check and organized, even if it can make me feel like I don't have time to do anything else.

6. What are you thinking about when you perform?

Before getting on stage, I zone out completely and just try to focus on my breathing and clearing my mind from any stressful thoughts. Once I get on stage, I am completely in the moment. As I start to perform, I feel all the stress leaving my body. I know I only have one shot at this so I think, but not too hard.

7. What were your thoughts and feelings after winning Kuwait’s first bronze medal in 2019 at the Arab Championship of Rhythmic and Artistic Gymnastics in Tunisia?

I was honestly shocked. It felt surreal because I really didn't expect it, and I don't think anyone did either. I felt so proud standing on the podium holding a big Kuwaiti flag, representing my country. I thought of all the young aspiring gymnasts that will follow this path and represent my country in this special way.

8. How does it feel to be the first Kuwaiti female representing Kuwait in Rhythmic Gymnastics?

I feel proud knowing that there are young aspiring gymnasts that look up to me and aspire to represent Kuwait proudly. I feel blessed to be able to be a part of a movement that celebrates women in sports, since I was a part of the first Kuwait National Rhythmic Gymnastics Team.

Yasmeen Marafie A Kuwaiti gymnasts

9. Who is your gymnastics icon and why?

My gymnastics icon is my coach, Elena. She was a rhythmic gymnast on the Kazakhstan National Team for 6 years, from the ages of 12-18. Not only is she an amazing gymnast, but also a beautiful soul. She pushes me to perform at my best ability, supports me in any case, and a great friend. Whenever I feel a little unmotivated to train, she gets me back on feet. I so blessed to have her as my coach.

10. Do you have a favorite gymnastics routine to watch online or on TV?

One of my favorite routines to watch is Yana Kudryavtseva’s ball routine in the Rio 2016 Olympics. She carries herself with such grace and strength, its incredible to watch. Plus, the ball is definitely of my favorite apparatuses.


11. What are your hopes and dreams for yourself in the sport?

As of now, I hope that I will be able to carry on my training wherever I am in the world. Since I am now a graduate of high school, I will be starting a new chapter in life, filled with new people, places, and experiences, and I hope that rhythmic gymnastics will be a part of this chapter. Rhythmic gymnastics has taught me many important lessons, when it comes to organizing my life, and even if i will not be able to carry on professionally, those life lessons will always remain.

12. What tips or advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career as a gymnast?

Being a female gymnast in Kuwait, honestly speaking, is difficult. Female athletes have been oppressed for years, because it isn't part of the culture for women to be successful athletes.

You will feel so loved, yet also feel like an outlier. There will be days in which you'll feel unmotivated and tired, but there will also be days where all you want is to train and train until you cant anymore. Push through the lazy days, make sure to surround yourself with supportive and loyal people, and most importantly take care of yourself. Listen to your mind and body, and take rest when you need it. Lastly, make sure you aren't pursuing gymnastics for anyone but yourself, to make yourself proud.

13. What do you like to do in your off time?

I love to listen to music, it clears my mind, and allows me to disconnect from reality to take a break from my mind. I surround myself with great people, that make me feel loved and appreciated. I also love to raid my closet and put together different outfits.

14. What do you plan to study in college?

I plan to major in international business. I grew up with two entrepreneurial parents, which allowed to grow a passion for business.

Yasmeen Marafie with 3oud15. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t quite know yet. I want to experience life in a different setting with different people first. I do know that I have this idea of my life in my head that I will work towards everyday, because I wouldn't settle for anything less.

16. What are your other hobbies?

I am currently enjoying figure skating, learning different skills on ice. I also love volunteering at different organizations, it makes me feel whole as a human being, to be fortunate enough to help other people who aren't as fortunate as I am.

17. What do you like about fashion? And who are your favorite fashion brands?

I love that I am able to express myself through my clothing. Fashion makes me feel confident and powerful. If I have a great fit on its a great day. Some days I like to shop at my mom closet lol, my mom has great taste. My favorite fashion brands include Marine Serre, i.am.gia, Jaded London, Prada, and Pangaia.

18. What’s the most treasured item in your closet and why?

Fire sneakers complete an outfit. I could say I have a pretty cool collection of sneakers, but my most treasured one would be my first babies, the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG UNC’s. These were my first pair of Jordans 1’s, which was the spark into adapting my specific style, super clean, super cool, and edgy.

Yasmeen Marafie with 3oud.com