U.S. Rhythmic Group clears major hurdle toward 2020 Olympic qualification
posted on 09/15/2018

© Tom Theobald

By Blythe Lawrence

The members of the U.S. Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Group would have you know this about their performance at the World Championships Saturday:

“That we fought,” said Nicole Sladkov.

“We managed,” Connie Du added.

“We put everything we had in us out there in those two routines,” said Ugne Dragunas.

“We performed like a team,” Isabelle Connor chimed in.

In the high intensity heat of group competition at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Americans scored a team best 18.5 points with the 3 Balls and 2 Ropes, the highest score ever for the six who train together at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center in Glenview, Illinois.

It was “emotional,” they agreed. And if their follow-up with the 5 Hoops included a few tiny errors, the team, which also includes Daria Baltovic and Elizaveta Pletneva, is proud of the result.

With their third consecutive World all-around title, Russia extended its domination over the sport. Italy turned in two dynamic and elegant performances to take silver, while host Bulgaria settled for bronze after errors in their performance with the hoops. For the Americans, a 14th place finish qualifies them to compete at next year’s World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, where they will attempt to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Rhythmic group gymnastics redefines teamwork. In other forms of the sport, gymnasts perform one at a time in team competitions, with individual scores added together to generate a team total. Rhythmic groups, meanwhile, compete as one, everyone on the carpet at the same time. Each person has her place, and she must stay in total coordination with her teammates in order for the routine to come together well. Little wonder this group seems in sync off the floor as well.

Life -- in the form of schoolwork and driving tests and college applications -- has been suspended while the group concentrated on the task at hand, globetrotting to competitions in Belarus and Russia followed by a stint in Italy in preparation for the World Championships.

And it can wait a little longer, while the team competes at the Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru, later this month, aiming to qualify for next year’s Pan American Games. With one goal accomplished, other hemispheres are waiting to be conquered.