© Tom Theobald

PESARO, Italy, Sept. 1, 2017 – 2016 Olympian Laura Zeng of Libertyville, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, finished sixth in the all-around on the final day of individual competition at the 35th World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships inside Adriatic Arena in Pesaro, Italy. Zeng’s finish improves on her eighth place finish at the 2015 World Championships, which was previously the best World all-around finish by a U.S. rhythmic gymnast.

Evita Griskenas of Orland Park, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, finished 11th in the all-around, marking the fourth-highest finish for Team USA at a Rhythmic Worlds behind Zeng’s 2015 and 2017 finishes and Mary Sanders’ 10th place finish in 2003. This is the first time two U.S. rhythmic gymnasts have finished in the top 11 in the World Championships all-around rankings.

Group competition begins tomorrow with the all-around competition and event finals qualifications. The U.S. group, which trains at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, consists of Dasha Baltovick of Highland Park, Ill.; Natalie Bourand of Burr Ridge, Ill.; Connie Du of Deerfield, Ill.; Yelyzaveta Merenzon of Buffalo Grove, Ill.; Nicole Sladkov of Vernon Hills, Ill.; and Kristina Sobolevskaya of Deerfield, Ill. Coverage of the group competition is also available live on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel. Competition is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. local time/9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Russia’s Dina (74.700) and Arina Averina (73.450), who are twin sisters, took the gold and silver medals, respectively. Israel’s Linoy Ashram was the bronze medalist, earning a 70.025 total in the all-around.

Zeng opened with a 17.700 for her clubs routine, which she performed to music from the television series Game of the Thrones. The routine opened with a high toss and an intricate catch while performing an illusion turn. She closed with a solid trap catch. In the second rotation, she earned a 16.400 for her ribbon routine, set to powerful music by Shpongle. As the beat picked up, the crowd clapped along and she performed her signature fouetté turns.

In the third rotation, Zeng performed with the hoop and scored a 17.100. She had two big tosses back-to-back, including one while performing a back walkover, and showing intricate uses of the apparatus. In the final rotation, Zeng scored a 17.050 for ball routine. It completed a competition where she bested each of her four scores from the qualification round and gave her a 68.250 total score.

Ninth to go in each rotation, Griskenas began with hoop and performed with elegance, opening with an intricate catch of the apparatus behind her back. She closed with a difficult catch between her legs as she performed a backward roll and scored 17.000. Set to Everything by Sean Christoper, Griskenas scored a 16.150 for her ball routine, executing a unique back attitude rotation with the ball balanced on her leg. She showed impeccable control on a back attitude turn in the third rotation while performing with clubs. She earned a 16.400, more than a full point higher than she earned during qualification. Griskenas wrapped up her debut at the World Championships by earning a 15.800 for her ribbon routine. She totaled a 65.350 in the all-around.

Yesterday, Zeng and Griskenas ended a history-making two days of competition in Pesaro by qualifying at least one athlete to all four event finals and two athletes to the top group of the all-around final for the first time for Team USA. The United States has only qualified two athletes to the World all-around finals for rhythmic gymnastics once before – in 2013, when Jazzy Kerber and Rebecca Sereda advanced in Kiev, Ukraine. Zeng is now the first U.S. rhythmic gymnast to compete in three World event finals at the same Championships and, together with Griskenas, is part of the first U.S. duo to compete in the same Rhythmic World’s event final.

Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and Gymnastics for All (formerly known as group gymnastics). For more complete information, log on to usagym.org.