TOKYO: Russian rhythmic gymnastics star Dina Averina topped Tokyo’s first two qualifying rotations with exquisite routines, turning acrobatic pirouettes and twisting delicately into her hoop to the sound of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck”.
An Olympic medal event since 1984, rhythmic gymnastics sees athletes perform mind-boggling contortions and manoeuvres to music while using hoops, balls, clubs or ribbons.
Competitors are judged on factors including how they use the apparatus. They are also marked on “body difficulties” such as balances, turns, and jumps, as well as execution and artistry.
Dina, 22, clad in gold sequins with black accents, scored a combined 55.225 points for both routines. Arina Averina – Dina’s older sister by 20 minutes – took the second spot with 54.475 points.
At one point in Arina’s second routine – that began with the iconic siren notes played in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” – she bounced a ball with her left foot, leg over her head, while doing a handstand.
The twins are gold and silver medal favourites in Tokyo, with athletes from Belarus and Bulgaria hot on their heels. Since the 1984 Soviet boycott of the Olympic Games, rhythmic gymnastics medals have been mostly won by Russia and other former Soviet states.
Russian athletes are competing under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) flag at the Tokyo Olympics as part of sanctions for several doping scandals.
World Cup medalist Israel’s Linoy Ashram got off to a rocky start, surprising judges in the first rotation when she lost control of her hoop seconds before her otherwise brilliant routine ended.
She more than redeemed herself in her second performance, getting that rotation’s highest score, 28.250, to the blare of Alphaville’s “Big in Japan” and cheers of onlookers.
She scored 51.750 points in the two rotations combined, placing her in fifth place, with two more rotations scheduled for later in the day. Yesterday, only the top 10 competitors will make it to the finals. — Reuters