Olympic Hooping 2012: Yevgeniya Kanayeva Wins Rhythmic Gymnastics Gold

Aliya Garayevas
Aliya Garayevas of Azerbaijan

If you’ve been hooping longer than a few days, you have probably heard someone say jokingly that hooping should be an Olympic sport. Many people are surprised when they learn that hooping is already part of the Olympics, as part of rhythmic gymnastics! Like the hoopdance we are familiar with, the hoop event in rhythmic gymnastics combines hooping and dancing, but on a level that many hoopers have never seen. Continuing our coverage of hooping at the Olympics, here are the results of the Rhythmic Gymnastics competition at the 2012 London Olympic games. NBC’s videos are sadly not embeddable on our page or viewable outside of the U.S., but click on the blue links below to watch the amazing routines.

Rhythmic gymnastics has three scoring components that are each worth ten points: artistry, difficulty, and execution. Artistry is judged on musicality, choreography, expressiveness, and body movement. Half of the difficulty score is for body difficulty and the other half is for equipment difficulty. Execution is where technical mistakes are evaluated. The maximum score a gymnast can receive for a routine is 30 points, and the maximum all around score is 120 points. Each gymnast performs four routines, one for each apparatus (hoop, ribbon, ball, and clubs). At the Olympics, medals are awarded only for all around, the total of all four apparatus scores. At other international competitions like the World Championships and the World Cup, medals are also awarded for each apparatus.

On Thursday and Friday, twenty four rhythmic gymnasts from around the world competed in the qualification round in hopes of advancing to the individual all around finals. The top ten gymnasts to advance were as follows:

1. Yevgeniya Kanayeva (Russia) 116.000
2. Daria Dmitrieva (Russia) 114.525
3. Aliya Garayeva (Azerbaijan) 111.850
4. Sylvia Miteva (Bulgaria) 110.925
5. Liubov Charkashyna (Belarus) 110.450
6. Son Yeon-Jae (South Korea) 110.300
7. Alina Maksymenko (Ukraine) 110.025
8. Joanna Mitrosz (Poland) 109.75
9. Neta Rivkin (Israel) 108.900
10. Ganna Rizatdinova (Ukraine) 108.85

Gymnasts from China, France, Spain, Kazakhstan, Italy, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Australia, Egypt, and Great Britain participated in the qualifying rounds but did not advance. Julie Zetlin, the only American rhythmic gymnast to qualify for the Olympics this year, finished in 22nd place and did not advance to the individual all around finals either. Want to see how she did? Hoop, Ball, Ribbon, and Club.

Yevgeniya Kanayeva of Russia
Yevgeniya Kanayeva of Russia

The top ten athletes from qualifications entered the final round with a clean slate, as scores from the qualifying rounds do not carry over to the finals. Yevgeniya Kanayeva of Russia was heavily favored to win. The reigning Olympic champion, she is the Michael Phelps and Nadia Comaneci of rhythmic gymnastics. She has won 17 World Championship gold medals since 2007, as well as one silver medal. At both the 2011 and 2009 World Championships, she swept the medals winning gold in all four individual apparatus finals, all around, and team. In 2010, she “only” won four gold medals and one silver. At the World Cup (which does not have a team event), she has won every gold medal in event finals and all around for four years in a row. In addition, she is the only rhythmic gymnast to score a perfect 30 under the new code of points, not once, but twice. With such a formidable reputation she seemed almost unstoppable, but she made an uncharacteristic mistake during the qualifying rounds, dropping her hoop, causing people to wonder if she would continue to falter.

Her teammate, Daria Dmitrieva, was a last minute substitute for the Russian Olympic team, replacing Alexandra Merkulova who injured her foot. Daria was not officially announced as Alexandra’s replacement until August 2, giving her little time to prepare for her Olympic debut. Her initial exclusion shows the depth of the Russian team as she was originally not chosen due to a regulation which allows only two gymnasts per country in the individual competition. She has amassed an impressive record since joining the senior national team in 2009 though. At this year’s World Cup, she finished second in all around and three event finals, and she also earned a silver medal in the team event. At the 2011 European Championships, she was awarded bronze in the ball event and gold in the team final. She has also won four gold medals at the World Championships (one in ribbon, three in team) and one silver (ball).

As expected, both of the Russian athletes performed well in the final round of competition. Yevgeniya Kanayeva had the highest scores on three of the four apparatus, winning the gold medal by a margin of 2.40 points, making her the only rhythmic gymnast to ever win two Olympic all around titles. She said, “Gymnastics has been part of my life since I was six years old. It was not my target to be a legend, but I do like the sound of it. I love gymnastics and I want the audience to remember me.” Be sure to watch her amazing hoop, ball, club, and ribbon routines!

Daria Dmitrieva of Russia
Daria Dmitrieva of Russia

Daria Dmitrieva had the highest score in the ribbon event and the second highest scores in the other three events, earning her a silver medal. Daria said, “I am feeling excellent. It was hard for me to get it and I am very happy. It’s a very worthwhile medal to have won. I’m not only proud of myself, I am proud of my country. There are so many people, wonderful coaches and our parents.” Check out her beautiful hoop, ribbon, club, and ballroutines.

The battle for the bronze medal was between Aliya Garayeva (Azerbaijan) who finished third in qualifications and Liubov Charkashyna (Belarus) who finished fifth in the qualifying rounds. Aliya is an established and highly respected rhythmic gymnast who is the two time national champion in Azerbaijan. At the 2010 World Championships, she won bronze medals in all around, team, and three event finals. London was her second trip to the Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she finished sixth in the all around final.

Liubov Charkashyna of Belarus
Liubov Charkashyna of Belarus

This was also the second Olympic appearance for Liubov Charkashyna who finished fifteenth in Beijing. At last year’s European Championships, she won gold medals in the ball and club event finals, a silver in team event, and a bronze in the hoop final. She also won bronze medals in all around and the ball event at this year’s World Cup. During Saturday’s all around final, their scores were split with Liubov outscoring Aliya in the ball and hoop events and Aliya scoring higher in the ribbon and club (Liubov Charkashyna’s club and ribbonroutines are also available to view.

In the end, Liubov Charkashyna came out ahead, winning the bronze by a mere 0.125 margin. Crying tears of joy, she said, “I’m happy, very happy for my country and my coach and for rhythmic gymnastics in Belarus. I think it’s a valuation of my hard work and my school in Belaraus. I don’t think this medal is my medal. It’s for the whole of Belarus.”

Greek rhythmic gymnastics team
Greek rhythmic gymnastics team

In the group event, each team performed two routines. In the first routine, all five gymnasts used the ball. In the second routine, three of the gymnasts used ribbons and the other two gymnasts used hoops. Twelve teams competed in the qualifying rounds and the top eight advanced to the final medal round on Sunday:

1. Russia 56.375
2. Italy 55.800
3. Belarus 54.750
4. Bulgaria 54.625
5. Spain 54.550
6. Ukraine 54.150
7. Israel 53.100
8. Japan 53.025

Italian rhythmic gymnastics team
Italian rhythmic gymnastics team

Greece, Germany, Canada, and Great Britain failed to move on to the medal round. As with the individual all around, scores from the qualifying round did not carry over in the team final. Russia, Italy, Belarus, and Bulgaria have long been considered the top rhythmic gymnastics teams. Italy has won the last three World Championship team titles and also won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. Belarus won bronze at the 2008 Olympics and silver at the 2000 Olympics. They placed second at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships. Bulgaria won the bronze at the 2004 Olympics and silver at the 1996 Olympics, as well as the bronze at last year’s World Championships. Russia has won a medal in rhythmic gymnastics at every Olympics since the team competition was included in 1996. They have won gold at the last three Olympics and won a bronze at the 1996 Olympics. They earned a silver at last year’s World Championships and bronze the previous two years.

Russian rhythmic gymnastics team
Russian rhythmic gymnastics team

The teams started with the five ball routines. After the first rotation, Russia was in the lead with Italy less than a point behind in second place. Bulgaria was in third, followed by Belarus in fourth. The second routine for each team had three ribbons and two hoops. If you have been looking for fun ways to toss and exchange hoops, be sure to check out these routines! Not surprisingly, Russia had the highest score once again with Belarus 0.625 behind. Spain placed third in this rotation followed by Italyin fourth place. Bulgaria, previously in third place, had the lowest score in this rotation, knocking them out of medal contention. After combining scores from both final events, Russia had the highest overall score of 57.00 giving them their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in the group all around. Belarus won the silver and Italy was only 0.15 behind, winning the bronze.

The governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), selects which apparatus will be used in group events during each competition season. The first routine has all five gymnasts use the same apparatus. The second routine has three gymnasts use one apparatus and two gymnasts use a second apparatus. They rotate every two years, using three of the four existing apparatus. The bad news for hoopers is that means the hoop will be sitting out group events in the next two year cycle. The good news is that it will be back for the 2015-2016 season paired with the clubs, which means that we will see hoops in the group events at the next Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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