Rio de Janeiro, Aug 19, 2016: Undefeated in the All-around at the past three World Championships, Yana Kudryavtseva was expected to reign in Rio. Instead, at the end of the qualification round, the 18-year-old Russian sits second behind countrywoman Margarita Mamun in a reversal of the hierarchy the two have established at the biggest competitions during the past few years.
Kudryavtseva’s quest to become the fourth consecutive Russian to capture the Olympic title began slowly, with the Muscovite bobbling the Hoop and the Ball in her first two exercises. The unexpected errors left her fifth after the first event and third at the halfway point.
She moved into the lead after a nearly flawless performance with the Clubs, the only event where she outscored the rest of the field. But her name at the top of the scoreboard proved temporary: a Ribbon exercise not up to her own standard left her second – and obviously frustrated — at the end of the day.
Mamun had the opposite experience: The 20-year-old posted the highest scores with the Hoop, Ball and Ribbon. Her only error was a Club sent flying out of bounds during her third routine. Round one goes to Mamun, but the victory is psychological: each gymnast will start Saturday’s final with a clean slate.
Rizatdinova, Staniouta wage their own battle
Behind the Russians, Ukraine’s Ganna Rizatdinova and Belarus’s Melitina Staniouta fought their habitual duel for third, just as they have at the past two World Championships. The two began with the same scores for their Hoop performances, but it was Rizatdinova who gained the upper hand as the only gymnast in the top five not to make a major error. The 23-year-old finished well within striking distance of Kudryavtseva: just 0.066 separate the two. Staniouta, the bronze medallist in 2015, dropped the Ball but was clean elsewhere for fourth.
Still in the hunt
With only the top 10 of the 26 woman field returning for Saturday’s final, the most important thing was to make the cut in qualification. Korean star Son Yeon Jae, fifth, has distanced herself from the next contender, Neviana Vladinova of Bulgaria, by a point.
At age 30,Carolina Rodriguez advances to her first Olympic individual final, 12 years after her seventh place finish with the Spanish Group at the Athens Games. Marina Durunda of Azerbaijan and Katsiaryna Halkina of Belarus ranked eighth and ninth, while French gymnast Kseniya Moustafaeva grabbed at the last spot available.
Among those eliminated was Georgia’s Saloma Pazhava, who distinguished herself by finishing fourth at the 2015 World Championships. Pazhava was expected to contend with the leaders, but an apparent injury caused her to limp from the podium after each routine, leaving her unable to perform at her best. —- FIG
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