BEIJING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Russia's Evgeniya Kanaeva won the rhythmic gymnastics gold medal at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, the third Olympic individual title for rhythmic powerhouse Russia.
The retirement of Athens all-around gold and silver medallist from Russia, Alina Kavaeva and Irina Tchachina, opened the way for their compatriots Kanaeva and Olga Kapranova, and for 2004 bronze medallist Anna Bessonova of Ukraine.
But Saturday's rhythmic individual all-around final saw a rivalry among the three and a newcomer, Inna Zhukova from Belarus.
Kanaeva, the 2008 European all-around champion who ranked first in qualifications, claimed her first Olympic title with the highest scores in all her four routines, and a combination of 75.500 points.
The difficulty values of all her four routines exceeded the 9.0 barrier, and she matched her high difficulty with high-standard execution, mesmerizing fans with dazzling swings, circles, tosses, catches and spirals, among other daredevil tricks.
"I am so happy for myself, for my coach and viewers in the stadium," the 18-year-old said. "I did my best in the competition. "
She said she was so focused on her performance and did not notice she was first or not. "I only realized I won the gold medal when I saw the mark on the screen," she said.
Inna Zhukova, fourth in qualifications, performed consistently on the four routines of rope, hoop, clubs and ribbon, and finished second with 71.925.
Bessonova, the 2007 world all-around champion, trailed in third place in 71.875.
"I was in tears after my third rotation because I felt it's a pity that I did not get high score in this rotation. But I thought I still had a last routine to make up for it," she said.
Kapranova, the 2005 world champion who was also a hot favorite for the title, lost her chance after she missed the club in her third routine and only scored 16.95, the third lowest in this rotation. She was fourth.
The top ten gymnasts out of a total of 24 in the qualifications competed in the final.