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Bulgaria, Italy avert Russian sweep in Sofia

Publication date : 16/09/2018

With one gold each, the "Golden Girls" of Bulgaria (5 Hoops) and Farfalle of Italy (3 Balls + 2 Ropes) put an end to Russia's domination as the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships concluded Sunday in Sofia (BUL).

The final day of competition at a packed Arena Armeec saw Japan and Ukraine win their first medals of the competition. Russia, meanwhile, was nearly shut out, winning a single silver medal following gold medals in the first seven events in Sofia. On Saturday, Russia, Italy and Bulgaria qualified Groups to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (JPN) by way of their medals in the All-around event.

The "Golden Girls" of Bulgaria won the gold for their 5 Hoops routine.

5 Hoops: Bulgaria bests rivals

Dejected after a mistake left them in third place during Saturday's All-around, the Bulgarians refocused for Sunday's showdown in the apparatus finals, determined not to let down the thousands of fans who went wild for their every move. Clad in brilliant green and gold, Elena Bineva, Simona Dyankova, Stefani Kiryakova, Madlen Radukanova and Laura Traets performed to a haunting Bulgarian melody, with their creative and extremely difficult exercise delighting the crowd. They racked up a massive 23.300 score, the highest mark of the Group competition in Sofia.

"It's amazing," Traets said. "All these feelings are absolutely amazing, and now we are world champions with 5 Hoops!"

The home team, dubbed the new "Golden Girls" of Bulgaria, brought Bulgaria's first gold at the World Championships since the Group won the All-around in 2014. It was the third medal for the Rhythmic-mad host nation following silver with the Individual Team event on Thursday and bronze for the Group All-around on Saturday.

Fifth in the All-around, the Japanese quintet of Rie Matsubara, Sakura Noshitani, Sayuri Sugimoto, Ayuka Suzuki, and Kiko Yokota were thrilled to win the silver.

All-around silver medallists Italy, the defending 5 Hoops world champions from the 2017 World Championships in Pesaro (ITA), fell to third place after a mistake in their otherwise outstanding rendition of "Swan Lake." Russia, the top qualifier, committed several errors to finish fourth.

The Italian Farfalle claimed gold with their 3 Balls + 2 Ropes routine.

3 Balls + 2 Ropes: Farfalle first

Known as the Farfalle ("butterflies"), the Italian squad of Anna Basta, Martina Centofanti, Letizia Cicconcelli, Agnese Duranti, Alessia Maurelli, and Martina Santandrea flew to first place in the 3 Balls + 2 Ropes final to take the final gold medal of these World Championships. Performing to "Eye of the Tiger," the Italians kept their eye on the prize as they notched a score of 22.550, earning the top Difficulty and Execution scores of the final.

"It's simply amazing," said Maurelli, the team captain. "We worked hard, we knew what we needed to do and we did it."

Russia (Mariia Kravtsova, Evgenia Levanova, Kseniia Poliakova, Anastasiya Tatareva, and Maria Tolkacheva) finished second to take another medal back to Moscow.

The Ukrainian Group (Tetiana Dovzhenko, Valeriya Khanina, Diana Myzherytska, Anastasiya Voznyak, and Valeriya Yuzviak) showed their trademark classical style to finish third, eclipsing Japan by 0.050, while an errant ball pushed Bulgaria to fifth.

In exactly one year, the 2019 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships will open in Baku (AZE), where they are scheduled to take place 16-22 September 2019.