LONDON, England (AFP) — Before a sea of red, white and blue flags, Russia pursued their merciless dominance of rhythmic gymnastics by claiming their fourth consecutive Olympic group title yesterday.
The Russian team posted a score of 57.000 points to finish above Belarus and three-time world champions Italy at London's Wembley Arena, to the delight of the many Russian supporters present.
With Evgenia Kanaeva having successfully defended her title in Saturday's individual final, Russia have now won every Olympic gold medal in the sport since the start of the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Italy secured the world crown in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and were bidding to claim a first Olympic gold medal, but they had to content themselves with bronze, eight years on from a second-place finish in Athens.
In the final, the five-strong teams perform only two meticulously choreographed routines — one with balls, and one with hoops and ribbons.
Russia earned a score of 28.700 for their balls display and although the Italians' energetic routine stirred their many compatriots in the audience, it was only good enough for second place.
The second routine involves three ribbons and two hoops, the gymnasts tossing the objects between each other as they run, leap and roll around the mat.
The Russian display was a visual treat, the gymnasts sporting silver leotards with bright pink skirts and sporting ribbons coloured yellow, green and red that evoked a carnival feel.
Their sprightly performance yielded 28.300 points and it proved enough for gold, with the Italians' high-energy routine, soundtracked by Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture, only earning a mark of 27.325.
Belarus slipped in front of Italy with their routine, leaving some of the Italian gymnasts in tears but giving the Belarusians their third medal in the event after silver in Sydney and bronze in Beijing four years ago.