Russia’s Margarita Mamun edges out world champion for top qualification spot

26 rhythmic gymnasts were narrowed down to 10 after the first day of individual competition at the Rio Olympics.

In the preliminary session, every gymnast who qualified for the Olympics performed four routines, one each using the ball, hoop, ribbon and clubs apparatus. The athletes with the top 10 combined scores will advance to tomorrow morning’s final, where they will again perform four routines in pursuit of Olympic medals.

Yana Kudryavtseva arrived in Rio as the reigning and three-time world all-around champion. She’ maintaining her spot at the top of the sport since 2013, when at 15 years old she became the youngest ever all-around world champion.

However, after minor yet uncharacteristic mistakes in her early routines, Kudryavtseva sat in third place at the mid-way point of today’s qualifications.

She was not in any danger of failing to qualify for the final–where the scores are wiped clean–but she appeared rattled. Not the “Angel with Iron Wings,” the nickname she earned for the beauty and stoicism she shows while performing. 

In the second half, she had regained her composure and moved into second place. But she couldn’t catch up with Margarita Mamun, her close friend, training partner and long-time rival.

Also Russian, Mamun claimed the top qualifying spot by 0.385 points. She was the only gymnast to receive two scores of 19 or more points (out of 20), for her ball and ribbon routine. If she hadn’t dropped one of her clubs and almost lost it out of bounds, her lead could have been significantly larger.

Ranked third is Ukraine’s Anna Rizatdinova, who won all-around bronze at the 2014 Worlds and finished fifth in 2015.

Laura Zeng, Team USA’s sole representative in the individual rhythmic gymnastics competition, performed mostly clean routines and tied for the record best ever finish by a U.S. athlete in Olympic rhythmic gymnastics. But her 11th-place ranking wasn’t good enough for the final; she was just 0.141 away from advancing to tomorrow’s competition.

The ten rhythmic gymnasts who qualified for the final are, in order of combined score:

1. Margarita Mamun (Russia)
2. Yana Kudryavtseva (Russia)
3. Anna Rizatdinova (Ukraine)
4. Melitina Staniouta (Belarus)
5. Son Yeon-Jae (South Korea) 
6. Neviana Vladinova (Bulgaria)
7. Carolina Rodriguez (Spain)
8. Marina Durunda (Azerbaijan)
9. Katsiaryna Halkina (Belarus)
10. Kseniya Moustafaeva (France)