In mid-September, the entire elite of rhythmic gymnastics gathered for the third time in a season in Baku. The capital of Azerbaijan has already hosted the World Cup this year, then the European Championship, and finally it has been the occasion to host the World Cup - the last such major start before the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
For the Russian team, preparations for the main competition of the year were somewhat alarming. At the last moment, a substitution took place in the team performing in individual competitions. Alexandra Soldatova, bronze medalist of the all-around world championships, did not go to the tournament due to health problems, and veteran Ekaterina Selezneva came to replace her. At the age of 24, she was to perform for the first time at the championship of the planet, while for the other participants, Dina and Arina Averin, this was the third tournament.
The two previous twin sisters had a phenomenal time, sharing gold only with Soldatova. Dina was especially successful. She won twice the most prestigious kind - all-around - and in Baku she got a chance to become the fifth gymnast in history, which was three times equal at world championships. Before her this was achieved only by Russians Evgenia Kanaeva and Yana Kudryavtseva, as well as representatives of Bulgaria Maria Gigova and Maria Petrova.
Before the finals in the all-around, the girls had to perform in separate exercises, where surprises are always possible that can affect the mood in the final form of the program. The most unexpected result was presented by the competition with a hoop. Together with Dina Averina, Selezneva reached the final, who got the last starting number.
And before the 24-year-old gymnast stepped on the carpet, it was not her compatriot who was in the lead at all, but the Israeli Lina Ashram - the main rival of the Russians over the past three years - ahead of Averina by insulting 0.05 points.
Thus, in order for gold to fall into the treasury of the Russian team, Selezneva had to, from the very first attempt, win the most important start in her life. And she succeeded - due to the execution, she bypassed the Ashram by 0.1 points.
“I'm a little shocked. I was very scared, in fact, but Irina Viner-Usmanova knows how to tune, to choose the right words. And all this thanks to her and my coach, I would definitely not have done it myself! They really helped. Here all the rivals are very strong, very worthy, and you never know from whom and what to expect, but we try not to think about it and concentrate only on our exercises. And to carry them out clearly and correctly, ”Selezneva told RIA Novosti.
Dina Averina, who remained with bronze, did not hold back her tears, but immediately gathered for the next final in exercises with the ball. Performance under “Polovtsian Dances” brought her the best marks for both complexity and performance. Closest to her nine-time world champion gymnastics, her sister Arina approached, reassuring her before the final. The third place was taken by the Ashram, who, in her spare time from training, serves as secretary in the Israeli army.
Two days later, Dina Averina won three more champion titles. Based on the qualification results, the best countries in the team championship were determined in clubs and ribbon, and the Russians went to the Russians for the tenth time in a row. On the same evening, the finals with these shells took place, on which Dina showed unattainable results. The gap in the exercises with the ribbon was eloquent - Averina won the Ashram more than a point, which is very rare for competitions of this level.
Sister Dina the second day of the finals did not bring success. After winning the qualification, she took fourth place in the exercises with clubs, giving bronze to Ukrainian Vlad Vlad Nikolchenko, who won the country's first medal in four years. In the final with the tape, Arina Averina was replaced by Selezneva, who replenished her collection of awards with bronze.
With three gold medals in separate exercises, Dina Averina was the undisputed favorite of all-around. But in the first approach with maces, she unexpectedly lost a shell during a performance. The 12-time world champion was behind the Ashram, and she had to look for reserves in herself to break forward.
As a result, Dina still came out on top, and Arina set off after her. Although they were separated by a pretty decent all-around margin, the sister of the multiple world champion made a desperate attempt to win it off by performing with maces. She earned more than 24 points - for rhythmic gymnastics this is a fantastic result.
Upon learning her assessment, Arina burst into tears. She lacked only 0.3 points to win a personal gold medal. The title still went to Dina, who entered the elite club of three-time absolute world champions. In terms of the total number of victories, only Evgenia Kanaeva is now ahead of her.
“I thought it would be harder. That year I performed one look less, and it was very difficult. And here, it seemed, there were forces, I set myself up every day as if it was the first day and I have the strength. It was even easy for me somehow. In 2018, the most difficult is the medal of the absolute champion. It was difficult for me to perform, there was a leg injury, and without Arisha, she performed with Sasha Soldatova. In the 17th year everything went easy and simple, ”Dina compared her 13th victory at the World Championships with the previous ones.
For gymnasts performing their personal programs, the World Cup in Baku is over. Since 2013, Russians have not given their rivals a single gold medal. Now representatives of groups will enter the struggle for rewards, and it is always more difficult for them to compete with rivals.