Japan was the consistent leader of the senior and junior competition throughout the 1999 4 Continents Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, hosted by USA Gymnastics June 10-13 at the Prime Osborn III Convention Center in Jacksonville, Fla.

Yukari Murata
of Takarazuka, Japan was the Senior All-Around Individual Champion and led her country to the All-Around team title. The final team score was 114.623. Murata’s individual final score was 38.599. She also placed first in the ribbon apparatus in the Event Finals. Her teammate Rieko Matsunaga finished second in the All-Around with a score of 38.233.
Canada placed second as a team in the senior division. Erika Leigh Stirton of Mississauga, Canada finished third in the Individual All-Around with a score of 38.199. She also won two event finals in the rope and hoop apparatuses.
“I’m really pleased with the way this competition turned out. I accomplished a goal just coming to 4 Continents after a major knee injury,” said Stirton. “I was very happy to improve on my results from earlier meets this year.”
The United States Senior Team, represented by National Team Members Tatyana Brikulskaya and Jessica Howard, currently ranked one and two respectively, and Suzanne Pearson, helped the U.S. to a third place All-Around team finish.
Brikulskaya of Staten Island, NY finished fourth in the Individual All-Around competition, advancing her to all four event finals. In the finals, she placed second in the ball apparatus, fourth in the rope and ribbon, and fifth in the hoop.
“I think I could do better than I did at this event. My concentration wasn’t as good as it should have been. Plus, the competition was very tough,” Brikulskaya commented. “I am very happy though that I kept my number one ranking in the United States.” Howard, competing in her hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., placed fifth in the Individual All-Around, also achieving a spot in all four event finals. She placed third in the hoop, fifth in the ball and rope, and sixth in the ribbon apparatus.
“I was very pleased with this competition. It was great to be at such a large international competition and compete at home,” said Howard. “I have a lot of work to do for the upcoming year and with God’s help I’ll be able to pursue my dreams.”

Junior Competition

Following the seniors, the Japanese gymnasts were also the team champions of the junior event, largely caused by Rena Arino winning the Individual All-Around title with a score of 35.573. Shanshan Wei of China finished a close second with a score of 35.373.

Lindsay Powell
, also of Jacksonville, Fla., placed third in the Individual All-Around, receiving a spot in all four event finals. Powell won the event finals in ball and club, and placed fourth in rope.
“It felt great for me to win for my country and just as good to win in my hometown,” said Powell.

Group Competition

Japan won both the Senior Group hoop and ribbon competition with a score of 19.15, and the clubs competition with a score of 19.20, followed by China in second place in both apparatuses. Korea finished third in hoop and ribbon. Canada finished third in the clubs. The United States Group Team from Rockville, Md. finished fifth in hoop and ribbon and sixth in clubs.
Japan also finished first in the Junior Group Competition. The United States team from Chicago, Ill. placed fourth.

The 4 Continents Event

The event was first hosted in the United States in Indianapolis, Ind., in 1984, the same year that rhythmic gymnastics were introduced to the Olympic Games. The 4 Continents parallels the European Championships and has the potential to put an athlete in an at-large position for the 2000 Olympic Games.