3-Peat for Russian Rhythmic Gymnasts

ReutersGold medalist Yevgenia Kanayeva
BEIJING -- Russia won its third straight Olympic gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics all-around group on Saturday, a day after Yevgenia Kanayeva. won gold in the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around competition.

The team scored 35.550 to edge China, which had 35.225 for the silver. Belarus got the bronze with 34.900.

Russia had the high score of 17.750 in the five-rope rotation and held the lead by posting a competition-high 17.800 on the three hoops and two clubs routine.

"My coach is very strict with us and sets high goals for us," Russia's Yelena Posevina said. "I almost cried. It's not easy to win the gold medal."

Kanayeva posted the high score in all four rotations of the event, getting identical scores of 18.850 on her rope and hoop routines before wowing the judges with a club routine that earned her a finals-high 18.950.

The routine included a nifty move that involved balancing a club on her ankle while rotating her body around on the mat.

Clad in bright pink with a matching ribbon, she finished the competition with a routine that gave her a total of 75.500 and the convincing win.

Inna Zhukova of Belarus scored 71.925 points for the silver and Anna Bessonova of Ukraine had 71.875 for her second straight bronze.

Issei Kato / Reuters
Russia performing during the group all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics competition in Beijing on Sunday.
"It's a pity for me not to get the gold medal, but I'm not too sad to get the silver," Zhukova said. "In recent years I have attended a lot of competitions and the best result for me has been fourth place. It's beyond my expectation to get the silver meal."

Russian Olga Kapranova looked headed for silver after finishing second in the opening two rounds. Instead she lost her balance and later dropped a club in the third portion of the event for a score of 16.950 and eventually a fourth-place finish.

A shot of Kapranova on the gym's big screen showed her looking dejected after a strong ribbon routine by Bessonova took her out of medal contention.

Bessonova said she fed off the encouragement of the crowd.

"They could really appreciate my performance," she said. "For me, the spectators are the real judges. Because of them, I performed better with the ribbon."

The rhythmic team competition marked China's first Olympic medal in the event.

"The silver medal is unexpected," China's Zhang Shuo said. "Our efforts have paid off."

Zhang said China's goal for this competition was to improve their artistic scores, which are usually its weakness. "I knew the Russian and Belarussian teams are at a higher level, but we have our style," she said. "We have many things to learn from them. We used Peking Opera music, which creates a nice atmosphere for the spectators."