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Olympics 2012: Evgeniya Kanaeva stays on course for gold in rhythmic gymnastics

- Associated Press - Friday, August 10, 2012

WEMBLEY, England — There were no mistakes from Evgeniya Kanaeva this time, and the defending Olympic champion finished rhythmic gymnastics qualifying right where she expected — in first place.

Kanaeva had been second behind Russian teammate Daria Dmitrieva going into the final rotation after a rare mishap in her hoop routine on the first day. But Kanaeva performed flawlessly in the ribbon Friday, giving her 29.400 points and the top spot in the standings with 116.000.

Dmitrieva was 1.45 points behind, and Azerbaijan's Aliya Garayeva was third. The final is Saturday.

It was another impressive day for Russia on the carpet at Wembley Arena, with its team also qualifying for Sunday's group final in first place, despite a strong challenge from three-time world champion Italy.

In the individual competition, Kanaeva made sure that her uncharacteristic mistake Thursday would not be repeated. The reigning world champion came through with an outstanding display of rhythm and accuracy in the ribbon.

Kanaeva walked onto the carpet with a focused look and began by wrapping the green and pink ribbon around her shoulder. Then came a cascade of color and movement, as she effortlessly dropped the ribbon behind her back and caught it. She finished by throwing the ribbon and catching it with her feet, then pulling it back toward her.

The 10 gymnasts with the highest scores after Friday's ribbon and club sections advanced to Saturday's final.

Britain's Francesca Jones broke down in tears after finishing at the bottom of the qualification standings with a score of 94.625, despite loud support of the home crowd. She made a mistake at the start of her ribbon routine when she threw her ribbon away, and was unable to recover.

"I tried my best and I am so grateful to be here," she said. "The support of everybody has been absolutely amazing. I just couldn't have imagined it."

American Julie Zetlin finished 21st (96.675), and then confirmed her retirement.

"I've been doing this sport for 18 years and the last couple of years I've had a couple of injuries, so it was emotional," the 22-year-old Zetlin said.

In the group competition, the Russians scored 28.000 points in the three ribbons and two hoops section, giving the three-time defending champion a score of 56.375. Italy was second, followed by Belarus and Bulgaria. The top eight teams advanced to the group final.

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