Kanayeva Back on Top as Qualification Ends
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)

Defending champion Yevgenia Kanayeva regained her footing on Friday, topping the standings as the rhythmic gymnastics qualification concluded at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Yevgenia Kanayeva (Russia)

Kanayeva, who took second on Thursday after a dropped hoop, rebounded Friday with the top scores on clubs 28.975 and ribbon 29.400. Her total of 116.000 put her comfortably ahead of teammate Daria Dmitriyeva, who totaled 114.525 after two days. Dmitriyeva, the top gymnast on Thursday, had a second-best score of 28.925 with the ribbon.

Azerbaijan's Aliya Garayeva, fifth after Thursday, moved up to third (111.850) with the second-best score with the clubs (27.850). Bulgaria's Silvia Miteva moved up two spots to finish fourth (110.925).

Belarusian Lyubov Charkashyna, third after Thursday, dropped to sixth after struggling with her ribbon exercise (14th-best 26.550).

Korea's Son Yeon Ja, Ukraine's Alina Maksymenko, Poland's Joanna Mitrosz, Israel's Neta Rivkin and Ukraine's Ganna Rizatdinova rounded out the top 10 gymnasts who will advance to Saturday's all-around final.

China's Deng Senyue finished 11th, just fractions from the final. With the exception of Korea's Son, all 10 finalists are Eastern European.

Kanayeva, the most successful rhythmic gymnast of all time with 17 world championship titles, is favored to win again on Saturday. No rhythmic gymnast has ever won two individual gold medals at an Olympic Games. Only three rhythmic gymnasts have two Olympic medals: Ukraine's Anna Bessonova (bronze in 2004 and 2008), Russia's Alina Kabayeva (bronze in 2000 and gold in 2004), Alexandra Timoshenko (bronze in 1988 for the Soviet Union and gold in 1992 for Ukraine).

Russia also topped the standings in the group competition, outscoring Italy 56.375-55.800. Belarus qualified third with 54.750.

Groupss from Bulgaria, Spain, Ukraine and Israel also advanced to Sunday's final.

The Russian group also is favored to defend its title, but the world champion Italian squad is looking for an upset.

"Today it was very hard to compete, the team was concentrating very hard," Italy group member Marta Pagnini said. "Russia is a great team, they are ready and they are strong, but on Sunday the competition is very hard because there are two apparatus so we will see who will be the mentally strongest."

The rhythmic gymnastics competition is taking place at the world-famous Wembley Arena, which also saw badminton competition during these Olympic Games.

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