GLENDALE – Russian immigrant Bella Perelshtein, 72, of Glendale, bursts with pride as she talks of her great niece, Monica Rokhman, representing the United States in Rio.
“Are you kidding? I’m so proud of them,” she said. “I tear up every time I see them.”
For years, she has watched Rokhman, 19, and her identical twin sister, Jenny, also a gymnast, on TV. Jenny is an alternate for the U.S. women’s rhythmic gymnastics team at the 2016 Summer Olympics, while Monica Rokhman is set to compete.
The girls lived in Wisconsin at one time with their parents, Russian Jews who immigrated to the United States, Perelshtein said. The family later moved to Chicago and then to the San Diego area.
Perelshtein has loved watching the twins’ careers unfold, but it’s bittersweet, too. “I feel so terrible for my sister because my sister died when she was 37,” she said. “She did not live long enough to see them.”
Her sister, their late grandmother Maya Rokhman, would have been proud.
In women’s rhythmic gymnastics, five athletes perform routines with props like hoops and ribbons. Qualifying rounds for women’s rhythmic gymnastics have been set for Friday, Aug. 19.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.