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Russia eyes third Olympic rhythmic gymnastics group title
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Russia, the defending Olympic and world champions, is the favourite for the rhythmic gymnastics group title at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.

The Russians' technical precision and artistry should benefit them as they seek their third consecutive Olympic rhythmic gold medal.

Russia, a traditional rhythmic gymnastics powerhouse, was the winner of the group all-around gold medal in four world championships in a row.

But in qualifications, the all-conquering Russian girls were beaten to second place by their Belarus counterparts.

Italy, who finished second to Russia at Athens 2004 and at the 2005 and 2007 world championships, should challenge Russia for the top position.

Italy's routines include expressive choreography and daring tosses of the apparatus from gymnast to gymnast.

Although Bulgaria won the Bronze medal in Athens, they lost their third-place position to Belarus at the 2005 and 2007 world championships.

The competition for third place at the Beijing Games is likely to be between Belarus and Bulgaria.

But host China also wants to prove they are not the poor guests under their own roof.

The Chinese quintet, who have made remarkable progress in recent years and came third in qualifications, are yearning to win China's first Olympic rhythmic gold medal in group event.

Spain and Greece could also contend for the bronze medal.

Each group, consisting of five gymnasts, performs two routines, the first with five ropes and the second with three hoops and two clubs.

The scores of both routines are combined to determine the group total. The top eight groups from qualifications advance to the final on Sunday.

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)

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