Portimao World Cup upsets Rhythmic Gymnastics's status quo

A year after becoming the first Italian woman in a generation to win an individual medal at Rhythmic Worlds, Italy’s Alexandra Agiurgiuculese has continued to write history for her country.

A year after becoming the first Italian woman in a generation to win an individual medal at Rhythmic Worlds, Italy’s Alexandra Agiurgiuculese has continued to write history for her country.

Russia is so dominant in Rhythmic Gymnastics that it’s worth a headline when their athletes don’t win titles at major events, as at this weekend’s World Cup in Portimao, Portugal, the final dress rehearsal before next week’s World Championships in Baku.

Illness to Aleksandra Soldatova -- who nonetheless won the all-around Friday night -- and the absence of Dina and Arina Averina and Ekaterina Selezneva cleared the way for different competitors to occupy the top step of the podiums in event finals. Into these vacancies stepped the stylish Italians Alexandra Agiurguculese and Milena Baldassarri, who split the titles -- Agiurguculese took hoop and clubs, Baldassarri ball and ribbon — in the first competition where at least one Russian didn’t win something in 12 years.

These were golden firsts for Italy, a country that is almost as Rhythmic-mad as Russia -- never before had an Italian gymnast graced the top of a World Challenge Cup podium in any event. Despite her illness, which caused her to faint after the ball final, Soldatova managed a bronze medal in the event, while Belarusians Alina Harnasko and Anastasia Salos, Ukraine’s Yeva Meleshchuk and Camilla Feeley of the United States scooped up the remaining medals. Full results here.

Italy also scored itself a gold in the Group competition with the 5 Balls, while Belarus took gold with the 3 Hoops and 2 Pairs of Clubs. As in the individual competition, however, Russia was not in attendance.