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Russia Leads Olympic Rhythmic Qualification
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As expected, Russia's rhythmic gymnasts led qualification on Thursday as Olympic competition continued in London. Pictured: World and Olympic champion Yevgenia Kanayeva sits in second after dropping her hoop.

Russia's Daria Dmitriyeva and the Russian group topped the first day of qualification in rhythmic gymnastics as Olympic competition continued Thursday at London's iconic Wembley Arena.

In the individual qualification, Dmitriyeva edged favorite Yevgenia Kanayeva, 57.800-57.625. Kanayeva, the reigning world and Olympic champion, dropped the hoop (28.100) but had the top mark with the ball (29.525).

Belarusian Lyubov Charkashyna sits in third with 56.450.

Korea's Son Yeon Jae turned in a surprise performance for fourth so far (55.90), and is the only non-European in the top 11.

Son, who won the all-around bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, had the third-best score with the hoop (28.050).

"I've prepared so hard for the Olympics, and my primary goal is to reach the final," Son said. "I was surprised with such a high score in hoop. I made a mistake in ball, but I am confident I can put up good scores in clubs and ribbon, too."

Azerbaijan's Aliya Garayeva (55.800), Bulgaria's Silvia Miteva (55.500), Ukraine's Alina Maksymenko (55.425), Poland's Joanna Mitrosz (54.675), France's Delphine Ledoux (54.250) and Belarusian Melitina Stanyuta (54.200) rounded out the top 10.

Qualification competition continues Friday with clubs and ribbon. Only the top 10 gymnasts advance to Saturday's all-around final.

Since her victory at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Kanayeva has become the most decorated rhythmic gymnast of all time. She is favored to become the first to take two Olympic titles in rhythmic gymnastics, which debuted at the Olympics in 1984.

However, Russian head coach Irina Viner criticized Kanayeva on Wednesday, saying she is "not in her best shape."

Dmitriyeva, 19, was a last-minute replacement for teammate Alexandra Merkulova, who withdrew Aug. 2 with an injury. Regardless of its lineup, Russia is expected to pull off a gold-silver sweep.

The Russian group led qualification as well, scoring 28.375 with the five-balls exercise. Italy scored 28.100, .2 ahead of Belarus (27.900). Bulgaria sits in fourth (27.250) ahead of Spain (27.150).

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