Rhythmic gymnastics begins: 6 hours, 26 athletes, 104 routines

With the artistic gymnastics and trampoline competitions wrapped up, it’s time for rhythmic gymnastics to take over the Rio Olympic Arena.

The first of three days of rhythmic gymnastics competition starts tomorrow with the individual qualification round. There will be two sessions: from 9:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET, all 26 rhythmic gymnasts who qualified for the Rio Olympics will perform a routine using the ball and another using the hoop apparatus. In the second session from 1:50 to 4:50 p.m. ET, the same gymnasts who perform two more routines, one with the clubs and the other with the ribbons. 

The competition can be watched live in full online (links above) or on NBCSN at 11 a.m. ET, Telemundo at 2 p.m. ET or NBC at 3:45 p.m. ET. 

The gymnasts will receive a score out of 20 for each routine, with a maximum combined score of 80 points possible. The gymnasts with the top 10 combined scores will advance to the final, which will take place on Saturday.

The top rhythmic gymnasts to watch are the two Russians, Yana Kudryavtseva and Margarita Mamun. They are the reigning world gold and silver medalists, respectively, and favored to rule the podium in Rio. Mamun does a show-stopping clubs routine to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” while Kudryavtseva sticks to more classical music befitting her nickname, “The Angel with Iron Wings.”

The sole U.S. athlete in the individual rhythmic gymnastics competition will be 16-year-old Laura Zeng. She’s already made history by finishing eighth at the 2015 World Championships, the highest-ever finish for a U.S. athlete at Worlds. If she qualifies for the final, she’ll be guaranteed a top-ten finish–which means she’ll make history again. The previous best finish by a U.S. rhythmic gymnastic was 11th, set by Valerie Zimring in 1984.