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Russia rules rhythmic gymnastics

Russia wrapped up their third straight Olympic rhythmic gymnastics group all-around title with China finishing second for their first medal ever.

other Updated: Aug 24, 2008 15:35 IST

Russia wrapped up their third straight Olympic rhythmic gymnastics group all-around title Sunday, with China finishing second for their first medal ever in the crowd-pleasing discipline.

Russia, the reigning world champions, bounced back after a mistake-marred qualification round with a polished performance in two routines - one using five ropes and one using two clubs and three hoops.

Russia took the lead with their folk-themed ropes routine and secured the gold with their clubs and hoops effort.

"I'm very excited and I almost cried," said Russian Elena Posevina. "It's not easy to win the gold medal. We've worked very hard."

China couldn't match the high degree of technical difficulty in Russia's routines, but they were thrilled to improve on their sixth-place finish in Athens.

"It's the most glorious day for rhythmic gymnastics in China," said Zhang Shuo.

The Chinese team's use of Peking Opera themes was big hit with spectators as well as judges.

"I knew the Russian and Belarussian teams are at a higher level, but we have our style," Zhang said. "We used Peking Opera music, which creates a nice atmosphere for the spectators. They understand our background."

Belarus, the top qualifiers, produced the most difficult routine of the finals but settled for bronze.

Athens silver medallists Italy were disappointed that their creative effort left them in fourth.

"I really, really feel upset. We didn't live up to our expectations," Italy's Elisa Santoni said.

Russia's group gold followed Russian Evgeniya Kanaeva's individual all-around triumph on Saturday by an impressive 3.575-point margin.

Knaeva, the 2008 European champion, gave Russia their third straight individual gold, taking the lead with her first apparatus and extending it throughout each rotation with such props as hoops, clubs, ribbon and ball.

Elegant Inna Zhukova of Belarus took the silver, moving into second place with her clubs performance despite fumbling a club at the beginning of the routine.

Ukrainian Anna Bessonova, bronze medallist in 2004 used superb clubs and ribbon routines to seize the bronze again.