By Gloria Davidova
On September 16-22, the 37th FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships took place in Baku, Azerbaijan. These serve as a final qualification for the Olympic Games occurring next summer in Tokyo. Winning two guaranteed spots into the games for individuals and the guaranteed spot for groups, the American team made history.
Every participating country is allowed a maximum of two spots for the individual competition and one for the group competition. The gymnasts, after a series of qualifying events the week prior, competed in the All Around Final Competition. From here, the top sixteen gymnasts assured their spots for the Olympics. This was the first time two spots were secured for Americans.
USA gymnasts Evita Grishkenas and Laura Zeng placed eighth and tenth respectively, topping Zeng’s twelfth place in the World Championships in 2015. The group finished tenth overall, beating the eighteenth place attained in the 2015 World Championships.
Griskenas finished just a few points behind the leader, Dina Averina from Russia, at a total score of 83.00. Zeng was not far behind at a total score of 81.85 for the four events. Before the code of points was changed in 2018, the maximum score for each routine was twenty, making the total score for each gymnast eighty. Now, the amount of points a gymnast can score for the difficulty of the performed routine is unlimited. This has been the major factor leading to the success of Zeng and Grishkenas.
That American gymnasts were even comparable to the Russians was unthinkable just a few years ago. Both gymnasts reached personal records in terms of scoring, but their grace and mastery of the sport appealed to the international judges, paving the way for remarkable achievements like these.
Even more stunning, after the competition, Laura Zeng was the first American gymnast to take home the Longines prize of Elegance. This is given to the gymnast with the most poise and elegance in and out of the competition. With elegance and immense excitement, she received the prize from the Olympic Chair for Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Now, as they arrive home and get back to their “normal lives” training in Chicago, the ambitious gymnasts are looking forward to Tokyo in 2020 and making even more history.
Image courtesy of USA Gymnastics