By Pritha Sarkar
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A display full of grace and elegance allowed Margarita Mamun to capture the individual all-around gold on Saturday and stretch Russia’s dominance in rhythmic gymnastics into a fifth straight Olympics.
A total score of 76.483 carried Mamun to the top of the podium after three-time world champion Yana Kudryavtseva surrendered her title hopes when her twirling act with the clubs went horribly wrong in its dying seconds.
Throwing the club high into the air, she rolled over on the floor ready to catch it as she went to strike her final pose, only to have the apparatus land beyond her reach.
That error knocked a distraught Kudryavtseva, who was leading at the halfway point of the competition, off the top and she settled for silver with a total of 75.608.
Ukraine’s Ganna Rizatdinova edged out South Korea’s Son Yeon-jae for the bronze.
Saturday’s result meant former Soviet states have won every individual Olympic medal, 18 in total, in the event since 1996.
Despite owning a haul of seven world titles, the 20-year-old Mamun had long lived in the shadow of her younger rival as she had arrived in Rio never having won a world all-around title.
At the halfway point of the competition it appeared as if that trend would continue as Kudryavtseva, dubbed the “Angel with iron wings”, fluttered above the rest of the field thanks to exquisite displays with the hoop and ball.
Chants of “Rus-si-a, Rus-si-a” echoed around the arena as she leapt around the mat rolling the ball across her body before arching her leg back into a fast-paced Biellmann spin holding the ball aloft.
But all her hard work came crashing down following one dropped catch with the club.
Having earned top marks of 19.225 (hoop) and 19.250 (ball), she bit her quivering lower lip as she walked off the floor following her mishap in the third rotation. She slumped over and stared at the floor as she waited for her score with the clubs to come up and her misery was complete when 17.833 allowed Mamun to overtake her.
Although the 18-year-old was back in the arena 40 minutes later to draw another top mark of 19.250 with the ribbon, it was not enough to topple Mamun.
A day after Mamun sent a club flying out of bounds during qualifying, she got the crowd clapping along to the beats of “We Will Rock You” as she performed a rousing routine with the same apparatus.
The gymnast known as “The Bengal Tiger”, because her father hails from Bangladesh, knew that the gold would be hers if she avoided any glaring errors and so it proved to be.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)