© Tom Theobald

PESARO, Italy, Aug. 31, 2017 – 2016 Olympian Laura Zeng of Libertyville, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, finished fifth and sixth in the ribbon and clubs finals, respectively, and Evita Griskenas of Orland Park, Ill./North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center, was seventh for ribbon today at the 35th World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships inside Adriatic Arena in Pesaro, Italy.

After two days of qualifications, Zeng and Griskenas made history 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.

Individual rhythmic competition wraps up tomorrow with the all-around finals, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. local time/9:15 a.m. ET, which fans can see live on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel. Zeng and Griskenas will compete in Group A, which begins at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Zeng opened her clubs routine, set to music from the television show Game of Thrones, with a big toss. She executed a unique mastery with the clubs connected where she dropped the clubs behind her and caught them with her foot. She earned a 17.050 from the judges, just ahead of her qualifying mark. She finished sixth in the final, improving from her seventh place finish in the 2015 final. Russia’s Dina Averina took the gold with a 19.000, followed by Belarus’ Katsiaryna Halkina at 18.050 and Arina Averina of Russia with a 17.800.

In the ribbon final, Zeng got the crowd going toward the middle of her powerful routine as she performed a sequence of fouette turns. She scored 16.200 to finish fifth. Griskenas, who is now one of only three U.S. rhythmic gymnasts to compete in two World event finals in the same year, overcame an early tangle of the ribbon to finish strong and score a 14.500. She finished in seventh place. Arina Averina took the gold with an 18.300, while sister Dina posted a 17.200 for silver. Israel’s Linoy Ashram was third with a 16.650.

Group competition begins Saturday 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.

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.