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Blood, sweat and tears fuel a Belarussian gymnast's Olympic dream

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The making of an Olympic gymnast
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The making of an Olympic gymnast
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 27, 2016. Picture taken May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 26, 2016. Picture taken May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta (R) walks with her friend in Minsk, June 10, 2016. Picture taken June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 26, 2016. Picture taken May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Members of the Belarussian rhythmic gymnastics team stretch during a training session at a sports base as they prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, June 28, 2016. Picture taken June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 26, 2016. Picture taken May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 18, 2016. Picture taken May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta tries on a dress in Minsk, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 27, 2016. Picture taken May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta performs during BSB Bank World Cup 2016 in Minsk, May 21, 2016. Picture taken May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta takes a selfie as she has her make-up done in Minsk, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta performs during BSB Bank World Cup 2016 in Minsk, May 21, 2016. Picture taken May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta has her make-up done in Minsk, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta swims at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, June 9, 2016. Picture taken June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta tries on Belarus' Olympic team uniform in Minsk, May 27, 2016. Picture taken May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta sits in a sauna at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, June 9, 2016. Picture taken June 9. 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta attends a training session at a sports base as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Minsk, May 26, 2016. Picture taken May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko SEARCH "BELARUS OLYMPIC" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian rhythmic gymnast Melitina Staniouta was just three years old when a trainer spotted her potential as she walked past a local gym with her mother and invited her to enroll.

Staniouta, now 22, went on to win all-around bronze medals in the 2010, 2013 and 2015 world championships. Now her sights are set on the Rio Olympics.

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In the all-around category, Staniouta will be eager to show off her flexibility while attempting jumps, flips and tumbles in time to music while throwing and catching apparatus such as a rope, hoop, ball, clubs or a ribbon.

"Sometimes you're just praying to get to the end of the routine," Staniouta said.

"You get a lot of injuries. I chipped a bit off my metatarsal bone in 2010 during a routine. I put the operation off until I finished the competition. The longer you do the sport, the more problems you get," she said.

Photos show her training and competing, as well as trying on her official Olympic uniform and getting ready for a photo shoot.

Staniouta said rhythmic gymnastics is not particularly popular in Belarus, so she is grateful to supporters in Spain, where the sport has a larger following.

"I have Spanish fans, who fly around the world to see competitions. Thank you so much to them! Support is very important. It's always nicer to compete when you hear that people are rooting for you in the crowd," she said.

Russia have dominated rhythmic gymnastics since 2000, with the country winning four successive team and all-around Olympic titles.

But with Russia facing a possible ban from all sports in Rio after an independent report uncovered rampant state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics, countries such as Belarus, who won the team silver in rhythmic gymnastics in 2012, could end up benefiting.

Staniouta said it would be a shame if Russian gymnasts cannot compete.

"Doping isn't needed in artistic gymnastics. What would be the point? To throw the club higher and hit the ceiling?" she said.

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