When Sofia Tepla broke a world record at the Italian TV show Lo Show dei Record in 2022, she couldn’t have predicted that, just two weeks later, her life back home would take a dark turn.

The then-11-year-old rising circus star was – quite literally – head over heels to claim the record title for world’s fastest time to travel 20 m in a contortion roll.

Pushing her flexibility to the limits, she rolled 20 m (65 ft) in a bone-defying, extremely back-bending manoeuvre named contortion roll, setting the record-breaking time of 10.49 seconds.

She was ready to take on the world but, as soon as she went back to her small Ukrainian town, the war started.

“On my first day back, a rocket flew into our town.” – Sofia Tepla

And yet despite all the difficulties, one year later Sofia successfully set a second world record.

Sofia Tepla contortion on window

“At the beginning, I lost the motivation to train so diligently. I felt apathy,” Sofia explained. “But then, I told to myself that it is necessary to continue, and to prove to the whole world, that Ukraine is full of talented and purposeful children.

“So, I set myself a new goal - to set one more world record. I think that by my example, I will inspire other athletes in my country not to lose motivation, even in spite of the terrible events. And I wish them to boldly pursue their dream.”

Sofia Tepla attempting record

Naturally, she faced many obstacles on her training journey.

“I couldn't go to the gym because of the constant bombardments and we had no electricity. We were training in the cold. I tried to improve my results, but was failing,” the young contortionist told us.

Thankfully, the conditions improved later on and, by spring, she was ready to set a new record, this time for the most contortion roll push-ups in 30 seconds.

“I will inspire other athletes in my country not to lose motivation. And I wish them to boldly pursue their dream.” – Sofia Tepla

sofia tepla holding two record certificates

Her successful attempt was set in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 11 March 2023, where she achieved a whopping 21 push-ups.

You can watch her attempt here:

Sofia confirmed that, from her point of view, there are no downsides to being this flexible: “There are only advantages. I use my stretching very often in everyday activities… I can even brush my teeth with my feet when my hands are busy with something else!”

Despite her young age, she feels very comfortable performing on big stages, and says that the audience’s reactions and cheering really inspire her.

“Plus, because of what I do, I get to travel and see a lot of countries,” she added.

Sofia Tepla during show

Sofia’s passion about performing started very early on. When she was just 4 years old, she would put on a show in front of her family, practicing with what she saw on TV and online.

Since she lives in a small town, there wasn’t a circus or gymnastics school nearby that she could attend.

A few years later, her mother decided to open a school and invite coaches to train the kids; soon enough, Sofia’s professional journey started, at the age of 7.

Sofia Tepla being filmed during attempt

This is just the beginning of the talented 12-year-old’s journey, as she is eager to show her impressive skills to the whole world.

She is also planning on breaking more records in the future.

“There’s a lot I can do, and I have some ideas,” Sofia revealed. “I could break a record for lifting flowers with my mouth while in a backward bend.”

“I like to set new challenges for myself, and then succeed. I feel grateful for my parents, and want to thank them for supporting me.” – Sofia Tepla

Sofia has been named as one of Guinness World Records' Young Achievers and will feature in our 2024 book, which goes on sale later this year.

Do you know a kid who'd love this story? We have a special version of it just for them on our kids' website here.

Sofia Tepla holding certificate

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