Rhythmic gymnastics: Russians sweep the board

The next generation of Russian rhythmic gymnasts maintained their country’s proud tradition in the discipline in Nanjing, winning both gold medals on offer. Irina Annenkova took individual gold while Daria Anenkova, Daria Dubova, Victoria Ilina, Natalia Safonova and Sofya Skomorokh won the group all-around competition.

Imperious Annenkova wins in style

Irina Annenkova’s graceful performance in the individual final on 27 August was awarded 58.575 points, easily enough to earn her the gold medal.

The Russian had a commanding lead after the qualification round but there was no chance of her resting on her laurels in the final.

“I actually wanted to do even better because I wanted to widen the gap between myself and the other competitors,” she said after topping the podium.

In the final, the 15-year-old posted the best score in all four rotations - clubs, hoop, ball and ribbon – and looks set to become the new star of the Russian rhythmic gymnastics team, who have won the last four individual titles at the Olympic Games.

“This victory means a lot to me after all the work I’ve put in,” she added. “I’m really happy. It’s fun and really interesting here because everything is new for me. I helped at the Sochi Games in my country: it was wonderful and I dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games one day.”

Mariya Trubach of Belarus scored 56.950 points which earned her the silver medal, just in front of Laura Zeng of the USA, who posted 56.750 points.

“I didn’t want to think about the medal, only about my competition, about my different routines and finally I got it,” said a delighted Zeng. “It’s awesome and I’m really proud because the Games were so special. I’m really grateful to have had this experience.”

Russian group lay down roadmap for Rio

In the team final, the focus was on hoops and clubs, and again it was the Russians who emerged on top with a score of 29.550 points.

Bulgaria, who took the silver medal with 27.050 points, briefly looked to be in with a chance of victory, before an error on the hoops took them out of contention. Kazakhstan scored 25.050 points to take the bronze thanks to a strong performance with the clubs.

In front of a captivated audience that included individual rhythmic gold medallist Annenkova and Nikita Nagornyy, who had amassed five medals in the artistic gymnastics, the Russian team produced two stunning routines that earned them a standing ovation.

“This is a great accomplishment for us, like it is for every athlete,” said group member Anenkova.

“We’ve really worked for this. Each one of us gave our best,” added Daria Dubova.”

The final word was left to Sofya Skomorokh, who served warning that we can expect to see plenty more of the talented group in Rio and beyond: “We won’t stop here. This is just the beginning!”