Sunday, August 12, 2012

Public Readings - London 2012 rhythmic gymnastics: Evgeniya Kanaeva wins all-around title

Public Readings - London 2012 rhythmic gymnastics: Evgeniya Kanaeva wins all-around titleEvgeniya Kanaeva found something besides sparkles and sequins to help her stand out from the competition.

A second Olympic gold medal.
The Russian became the first rhythmic gymnast to win two Olympic all-around titles, defending her gold medal from Beijing on Saturday. It caps a spectacular four years for Kanaeva, who also won the last three world titles, and gives Russia the last four Olympic individual titles. The Russians have a chance for another four-peat in Sunday's group event, too.

Kanaeva posted the highest score in three of the four events and finished with 116.90 points. That was more than two points ahead of teammate Daria Dmitrieva. Liubou Charkashnya of Belarus won the bronze medal.

Kanaeva gave a bright smile when the final standings were announced, waving at the large contingent of flag-waving Russian fans who had been serenading her with chants and cheers all afternoon.

That Kanaeva would win a second gold medal was never really in question. No one's come close to challenging her since Beijing, and she was so dominant at last year's world championships that she won all four individual events, too, and added a sixth gold in the team competition. Though a rare mistake left her trailing Dmitrieva after the first day of qualifying, she made it clear from the start Saturday that no one else was going to have a chance.

Kanaeva performs with such smooth elegance, the equipment often seems like part of body - not just some ribbons, balls, hoops and clubs she's tossing around. Her ribbon looked almost lifelike as she twirled it, dancing and swirling in perfect time to music by Chopin. Her milky pink ball seemed to be moving on its own as she rolled it along her arm.

And the hoop, the source of her problems Thursday? She flicked the golden - would it be any other color? - ring high into the air with her foot, and did a walkover before grabbing it with a graceful wave.

Dmitrieva was ecstatic with her silver - no surprise, considering she wasn't even supposed to be at the London Olympics. Only added to the Russian team earlier this month after Alexandra Merkulova withdrew with an injury, the 19-year-old showed that the Russian dynasty in rhythmic gymnastics won't end with Kanaeva.

Contortionists would envy the flexibility Dmitrieva showed during her ball routine, doing the splits with her legs high in the air while cradling the ball in the nape of her heck. And she ought to think about hanging onto her club routine for Rio, the samba-ish program sure to be hit.

When her last score was posted, Dmitrieva smiled and laughed, then made a heart shape with her hands that she flashed to the cameras.