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Margarita Mamun continues streak of Russian Olympic champions in rhythmic gymnastics

Margarita Mamun
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

Margarita Mamun continues streak of Russian Olympic champions in rhythmic gymnastics

For the fifth straight Olympics, a Russian rhythmic gymnast—but not the one everyone expected—claimed gold

Russian rhythmic gymnasts continued their reign over the top of the Olympic podium, with Margarita Mamun taking gold in the individual final.

Despite her country's long winning streak, Mamun's victory wasn't expected—because it was another Russian athlete, Yana Kudryavtseva, who was the heavy favorite. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 world all-around champion spent three years going nearly undefeated, but in 2016 she had a string of second-place finishes at World Cup competitions—behind Mamun. 

Mamun edged her out again in the qualification round, earning the top score. But the scores were wiped clean for the final, and after the first two rotations Kudryavtseva had established herself in the lead.

It came apart in the clubs rotation. In the last seconds of Kudryavtseva's routine, she failed to catch one of her clubs and had to scramble to get her hand on it before the music ended. Instead of receiving the 19-plus score she needed to keep gold within reach, she received a score of 17.883.

Mamun was the only gymnast in the final to have scores over 19 points (out of 20) on all four apparatus.  

The "Bengal Tiger" and the "Angel with Iron Wings," as Mamun and Kudryavtseva are nicknamed, are close friends and training partners out of competition. After the results were final, they shared a tight hug.

In third place was Anna Rizatdinova, who placed 10th at the London Olympics. Over the last four years, the Ukrainian athlete struggled to train through her country's violence and unrest. Her training gym is not far from Kiev's Independence Square, the site of many political protests. But Rizatdinova said that she would never consider leaving her home country, and her dream of seeing the Ukrainian flag raised at the Olympics finally came true.

The final standings were:

1. Margarita Mamun (Russia)
2. Yana Kudryavtseva (Russia)
3. Anna Rizatdinoava (Ukraine)
4. Son Yeon-Jae (South Korea)
5. Melitina Staniouta (Belarus)
6. Katsiaryna Halkina (Belarus)
7. Neviana Vladinova (Bulgaria)
8. Carolina Rodriguez (Spain)
9. Marina Durunda (Azerbaijan)
10. Kseniya Moustafaeva (France)

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