Averina, Nikolchenko top standings on day one of Baku Rhythmic Worlds

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www.gymnastics.sport|17-Sep-2019 11:09

Russia’s Dina Averina and Ukraine’s Vlada Nikolchenko led at the halfway point of qualification with the Hoop and Ball, respectively, as the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships began Monday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Each individual competitor performed with either the Hoop or Ball on the first of five days of individual competition in the Azerbaijani capital, and will show their routines with the other as Hoop and Ball qualifications conclude Tuesday. The top eight gymnasts with each apparatus advance to tomorrow night’s finals, where the first two titles of this World Championships will be decided.

Averina on course for third consecutive Hoop title
Dina Averina has never lost a world title with the Hoop, and nobody was able to best the 21-year-old Russian with the apparatus on Monday either. The reigning two-time world all-around champion began her quest for what would be her ninth world gold in style, recording a remarkable 23.650 points, the highest score given on the first day.

The only person to come close to Averina was her teammate Ekaterina Selezneva. In her debut performance at the World Championships, the 24-year-old veteran, a late replacement for Aleksandra Soldatova, rose to the challenge, posting 23.400 to put herself in silver medal position at this point.

Nikolchenko, belle of the Ball
Ball was the one apparatus sixteen-year-old Vlada Nikolchenko did not make finals with at last year’s World Championships, but the new hope of Ukrainian Rhythmic Gymnastics looked like a medal contender on the carpet early Monday, topping the qualification for her routine to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” with 21.400. Italy’s Milena Baldassarri, the reigning world silver medalist with the Ribbon, provided the second highest mark with 21.300.

Israel, Italy, Japan, USA targeting finals
Gymnasts from seven nations placed in the top five on day one. Israel’s Linoy Ashram, regarded as one of the main challengers to Dina Averina for the all-around title, made an error early in her Ball routine but recovered well to score 21.25, the same as teammate Nikol Zelikman. Due to her higher execution score, Zelikman is currently third in the standings, and Ashram fourth. Italy’s Alexandra Agiurgiuculese, the reigning world bronze medalist with the Ball, rounded out the top five with 20.95.

In her second Worlds appearance, Bulgaria’s Boryana Kaleyn spun her way to third with the Hoop so far. The USA’s Evita Griskenas, fresh off winning four gold medals at last month’s Pan American Games, is presently fourth (21.000), just 0.05 ahead of 2017 World bronze medalist Kaho Minagawa of Japan.