TIME Athletes

Here Are 8 Bizarre Yet Beautiful Photos of Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics

Gymnasts are known for their incredible flexibility, but rhythmic gymnasts take it to new levels, wrapping their bodies around ribbons, clubs, balls and hoops—all with a dazzling smile.

The secret to their rubber-band like contortions? Hours and hours of training, including more time spent in splits—hanging from bars or stretched across foam blocks—than the rest of us would consider humane. These athletes, competing at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, represent the eight top-scoring qualifiers in mind-bending acrobatic routines in the individual all-around finals.

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