Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics 2012: Top Gymnasts to Watch over Final 3 Days
The gymnastics events that monopolize most of the world's attention have come to an end, but rhythmic gymnastics is just getting started. There are still three days of action left before the 2012 Olympics wrap.
Rhythmic gymnastics' inclusion in the Olympics has long been a source of debate. Some claim that the "sport" is less about athletic ability and more about finesse, while others claim that it requires an immense amount of technique and skill to compete like these gymnasts.
There may be costumes and music and a little bit of cheesiness, but there are costumes and music in regular gymnastics too—and nobody complains about that.
It may not be basketball or track or wrestling, but rhythmic gymnastics is still a sport. As International Gymnastics Federation vice president Slava Corn told Reuters:
This sport has a difficulty score which is the content and it has an artistic score which is the performance and the presentation. It is a sport in our minds but obviously it does have a huge artistic component. For us it is a sport expressed in an artistic way.
The second day of the four-day rhythmic action is under way, which means we're creeping closer to discovering the newest rhythmic gymnastics champion. Here's a closer look at some of the top contenders.
You can see the full rhythmic gymnastics schedule here.
Yevgenia Kanayeva, Russia
During Friday's qualification, Kanayeva came in first with a score of 116.000—which wasn't a surprise to anyone, considering she's the defending champion and is widely considered one of the best ever in the sport.
In 2008 in Beijing—coming off a first-place finish at the Euro Championships—Kanayeva scored the highest on every apparatus and ran away with the gold. Nobody else was even close. She has since continued her stretch of supremacy, tallying six golds at the 2009 World Championships and sweeping top honors at the 2011 World Championships.
There is little to no chance of anyone upstaging Kanayeva in London. She's one of the best rhythmic gymnastics of all time, and judging by the way she's been competing in the qualification, she plans on retaining her title.
Daria Dmitrieva, Russia
During Friday's qualification, it was a race to the top between Dmitrieva and teammate Kanayeva, and at least through the first event, Dmitrieva hung right in there. In the end, though, she had to settle for second, falling behind the reigning champ after the hoop and finishing with a score of 114.525.
Still, beating Kanayeva on one apparatus was cause for celebration for Dmitrieva. She scored a 29.000 on the hoop, while Kanayeva scored just below her at 28.100. Dmitrieva scored the second-highest on the ball and in the ribbon and came in third in the clubs.
At this point, the 19-year-old star has to be considered the shoo-in for the silver.
Aliya Garayeva, Azerbaijan
One Aliya took home some of the top honors from the other gymnastics competition in London; this one is attempting to do the same in the rhythmic division.
Garayeva will be one of the only serious threats to Russia's dominance in rhythmic gymnastics, but in order to hang in the race near the top, she'll need to be spectacular throughout the individual all-around finals on Saturday. Her score of 111.850 on Friday was 2.675 points lower than Dmitrieva's and less than one point better than fourth-place finisher Silviya Miteva of Bulgaria.
The Olympic veteran, who finished sixth at the 2008 Games in Beijing, finished second-best on the clubs and third-best in the ribbon on Friday. But in order to compete for the silver or the bronze, she'll need to do much better on the hoop in the finals: She scored a seventh-best 27.450 on the apparatus on Friday.
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