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Russia likely to dominate rhythmic gymnastics
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Russia's "dream team" of world-class rhythmic gymnasts is widely expected to stage a perfect show at the Beijing Olympics.

The traditional rhythmic powerhouse has proved to be unbeatable in nearly all major international events in recent years, and many believe the Beijing Games will be no exception.

Their outstanding technical ability and artistic performance have enabled them to reign supreme over the likes of Italy, Bulgaria, Belarus and China.

Analysts said that although teams such as Italy may have come close to Russia in terms of technical difficulty, they are still lagging behind when it comes to artistry.

Said Russia head coach Irina Viner: "There will be a fiercer battle for rhythmic titles in Beijing, but for Russia, the pressure will be much less than the rest."

As the Russian quintet is as strong as ever, their defending the Olympic team title in Beijing seems unquestionable.

In the individual competition, Russia also boasts world's top rhythmic gymnasts such as world and European champions Vera Sessina, Olga Kapranova and Evgenia Kanaeva.

Kanaeva, who won the individual all-round title at the 2008 European Championships in Torino, has been granted a spot for the Beijing Games, and the remaining spot will be given either to Kapranova or Sessina.

No matter what the choice may be, Russia's grip on the individual gold seems hard to break.

The only threat to Russia's double-gold glory may come from Anna Bessonova of Ukraine, the bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Games.

A total of 12 teams and 24 individuals, most of them from Europe, will be competing for two rhythmic gold medals on offer in Beijing.

China is seeking its first Olympic rhythmic medal, hopefully in the group event.

(China Daily August 4, 2008)

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