Russia, with a dominating combination total of 51.100 points, Saturday claimed the gold in rhythmic gymnastics group all-around at Athens Olympics, beating Italy, another hot ticket in the sport to the second with 49.450.
Russia, defending Olympic champion, led both rotation with five ribbons and the one with three hoops and two balls, scoring 25.300 and 25.800, respectively, in the Galatsi Olympic Hall.
The bronze went to Bulgaria, former nine times world champion, with 48.600.
During the group qualification two days earlier, Russia with 49.875, Italy, which missed the medals at the World Championships in Budapest 2003, with 48.175, and Bulgaria with 46.900, topped the standings.
Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, China, Belarus, Brazil and Spain all qualified for the final, where they again performed one competition with five ribbons and another with three hoops and two balls.
In the group finals, the scoring started from zero, therefore everybody aimed for solid performances.
The best key to the podium, however, seems to be an error-free routine with the five ribbons. For the groups, this apparatus was introduced two years ago, but still causes problems to gymnasts because of its nature and the technical requirements of handling it.
Group exercises with small hand apparatus were included in the artistic gymnastics program of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, where six gymnasts performed their routines with ropes, some decorated with flowers.
The first Olympic Games to feature rhythmic gymnastics as a stand-alone discipline were the 1984 Los Angeles Games where only individuals were allowed to participate.
In 1996, in Atlanta, the first group routines were launched and Spain won the title, followed by Bulgaria, and Russia.
Today, this sport is popular around the world with nearly 50 countries and regions participating in the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships.