Anastasia Salos

Israel's Linoy Ashram is the next big thing in Rhythmic Gymnastics

Israel’s Linoy Ashram has impressive difficulty over all the apparatus, but especially with the hoop, where she’s capable of scoring 12.5 in D-score alone.

Israel’s Linoy Ashram has impressive difficulty over all the apparatus, but especially with the hoop, where she’s capable of scoring 12.5 in D-score alone.

The 2019 Rhythmic season is barely underway and Dina Averina is already queen of the carpet -- for now. After ruling the competition at last week’s Moscow Grand Prix, the reigning world all-around champion took her talents to Spain this past weekend, where she casually picked up the all-around title at the Marbella Grand Prix.

Good as Averina was in the general competition, she wasn’t the sole victor in Marbs. In her 2019 debut, rising star Linoy Ashram of Israel came out stronger than ever, claiming the titles with the hoop, clubs and ribbon and confirming what everyone suspected at the end of last year: here finally is a gymnast who will challenge even the best of the Russians.

Who is going to crack the Russian dominance has been the Big Question in Rhythmic gymnastics for years. The Russians are so good in this domain that the last time they didn’t win one of the Olympic gold medals available in the domain was in 1996. They haven’t lost a world title in any event since 2013, the year Ganna Rizatdinova won hoop at home in Kiev.

Ashram is already well established, having collected six medals at the past two world championships, including all-around silver to Averina last fall in Sofia. The key to her success lies in her difficulty and her ability to control it, matching the A-team Russians. That’s important in Rhythmic these days now that the D-score ceiling, previously capped at 10, has been lifted completely, something akin to what happened in artistic gymnastics in 2006. As a result, since the new Olympic cycle began, we’ve been seeing routines jam-packed with difficulty as gymnasts from the top countries fight to outdo each other.

The good news for Russia: Dina and Arina Averina’s biggest strength is that they’re capable of realizing exceptionally difficult routines. The bad news: Ashram (and a few others) are the same way. The new benchmark for world medal-worthy routines is those with D-scores greater than 12. Ashram’s 12.5 difficulty with the hoop, especially at this point in the season, is remarkable.

Dina Averina generally leads the way in potential difficulty score, and Marbella was no different (46.7 of her 82.95 points came from difficulty), as compared to runner up Aleksandra Soldatova, whose difficulty maxed out at 45.6. Ashram, the reigning world silver medalist in the all-around, would have finished higher but for a blown ball routine, which dropped her to eighth.

Bronze medalist Anastasia Salos of Belarus, a rising star who finished 10th at the 2018 World Championships, sometimes performs like an uncut diamond. But the difficulty she’s capable of -- 46.2 in Marbella -- will stand her in good stead as she continues to improve.

Two-time world champion Dina Averina of Russia (center) collected the all-around title at the Marbella Grand Prix, followed by Aleksandra Soldatova and Belarus’s Anastasia Salos.

Two-time world champion Dina Averina of Russia (center) collected the all-around title at the Marbella Grand Prix, followed by Aleksandra Soldatova and Belarus’s Anastasia Salos.

2019 Marbella Grand Prix - All-around final

1. Dina Averina, Russia, 82.95
2. Aleksandra Soldatova, Russia, 82.
3. Anastasia Salos, Belarus, 79.35
4. Vlada Nikolchenko, Ukraine, 79.0
5. Ekaterina Selezneva, Russia, 77.8
6. Arina Averina, Russia, 76.85
7. Daria Trubnikova, Russia, 76.5
8. Linoy Ashram, Israel, 74.85
9. Anastasia Guzenkova, Russia, 73.8
10. Irina Annenkova, Russia, 72.9

Hoop final

1. Linoy Ashram, Israel, 21.05
2. Dina Averina, Russia, 21.0
3. Vlada Nikolchenko, Ukraine, 20.8
4. Aleksandra Soldatova, Russia, 20.15
5. Nicol Voronkov, Israel, 18.85
6. Viktoria Onopriienko, Ukraine, 18.6
7. Maria Ano, Spain, 17.6
8. Anastasia Salos, Belarus, 16.6

Ball final

1. Dina Averina, Russia 21.45
2. Katsiaryna Halkina, Belarus, 20.800 ️
3. Arina Averina, Russia, 20.600 ️
4. Viktoria Onoprienko, Ukraine 18.850
5. Sara Llana, Spain, 18.650
6. Anastasia Salos, Belarus, 18.100
7. Alina Adilkhanova, Kazakhstan, 17.650
8. Vlada Nikolchenko, Ukraine, 16.750

Clubs final

1. Linoy Ashram, Israel, 21.650
2. Arina Averina, Russia, 21.650
3. Dina Averina, Russia, 21.000 ️
4. Katsiaryna Halkina, Belarus, 20.100
5. Anastasia Salos, Belarus, 18.850
6. Maria Ano, Spain, 18.200
7. Vlada Nikolchenko, Ukraine, 17.400
8. Jelizaveta Polstjanaja, Latvia, 17.100

Ribbon final

1. Linoy Ashram, Israel, 20.700
2. Dina Averina, Russia, 20.600
3. Aleksandra Soldatova, Russia, 19.100
4. Anastasia Salos, Belarus, 19.000
5. Viktoria Onoprienko, Ukraine, 17.750
6. Vlada Nikolchenko, Ukraine, 17.500
7. Maria Ano, Spain, 17.150
8. Kim Chaewoon, South Korea, 16.400

Must-sees from the Moscow Grand Prix

With four routines per competitor and 60 competitors in the field, any Grand Prix or World Cup competition in Rhythmic Gymnastics is always a drawn-out affair. That being said, a few routines that stand out in memory long after the awards ceremonies have concluded. Here are 10 picks that should be watched over and over again.

Salome Pazhava, Georgia, Clubs:

It will be hard to top her iconic “Joker” routine of the past two years, but Pazhava just might with this exercise. This routine goes in a completely different, very soft direction, but it’s brilliant nonetheless. Passionate and fluttering with emotion, it’s so smooth Pazhava almost seems to be gliding over ice rather than dancing on a carpet. In short, a new classic from rhythmic’s greatest chameleon.

Anastasia Guzenkova, Russia, Hoop

Like most Russians, she seems predisposed to handle big music well. Mireille Mathieu’s “Padam, Padam” is admittedly a little mature for her, but she pulls it off with aplomb. Quick work, reminiscent of Kudryavtseva. Great ending pose, too.

Irina Annenkova, Russia, Ball

The 2014 Youth Olympic champion is a very different performer than she was five years ago -- and for the better, too. So expressive with whole body, but especially with her hands. Terrific turn sequence that ends with her leg above her head, giving the ball a tiny little kick off her toe. A most entertaining.

Kaho Minagawa, Japan, Hoop

Sheer, floating-on-clouds elegance is what we’ve come to expect from Kaho Minagawa over the years, and she delivers with this new hoop routine, a symphony of softness and light. Beautiful.

Ekaterina Selezneva, Russia, Clubs

Some wickedly original masteries in this routine, including one right off the bat where she does half a back walkover, catch the clubs on the ball of her foot, kicks them back into the air and then stands up as though from a front walkover. Love the routine’s funky, kind-of-Asian choice of music, her uninhabited choreo, the big smile on her face.

Dina Averina, Russia, Ribbon

This new routine to “Une Vie d’Amour” by Charles Aznavour and Mireille Mathieu represents a big jump in elegance for Dina. Elegance is not something that has been associated with the Averina twins to this point, but it’s not something they’ve gone for much, either. With this routine, Dina signals the opening of a new chapter in her artistic evolution.

Daria Trubnikova, Russia, Ball

The 2018 Youth Olympic champion is a rising star. In her first foray into the senior ranks here, she finished fifth among the Russians in the all-around, which probably doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment but is. Supreme elegance and great facial expressions in this wonderfully delivered “There Was A Boy” from Moulin Rouge.

Neviana Vladinova, Bulgaria, Clubs:

This is a routine that should serve the Bulgarian firecracker very well in the coming year. It has everything: feisty Spanish choreography and deeply interesting and original throws and catches.

Anastastia Salos, Belarus, Hoop:

A folksy, Flamenco version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” is a perfect fit for this emerging personality. Salos has been given the moniker “Belarus’s Little Princess,” and this routine belies both her youth and charm. Salos seems capable of routines that are far more avant-garde and envelope-pushing than she’s currently showing, but at the same time it will be a delight to watch her continue to mature.

Arina Averina, Russia, Hoop

An absolutely classic piece of Russian rhythmic with huge throws and confident catches. Leading with this is sure to get her competitions off to a good start.

2019 Grand Prix Moscow Play-by-Play/Results: Apparatus Finals


Hoop final:

Kaho Minagawa, Japan: Sheer, floating-on-clouds elegance is what we’ve come to expect from Kaho Minagawa over the years, and she delivers! Her new hoop routine is a symphony of softness and light. Beautiful. 19.4.

Anastasia Salos, Belarus: Loses the hoop briefly twice during a folksy, Spanish guitarified version of Vivaldi’s “Spring”. A bit overexcited after her fifth place AA finish yesterday, perhaps. You can’t win ‘em all. 18.0.

Neviana Vladinova, Bulgaria: High drama with the music and very quick work with the hoop. A couple of awkward moments in this performance, though. Neviana looks a tad sheepish saluting the judges. 18.35.

Salome Pazhava, Georgia: Nobody does theatricality better. This new routine to Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run” is a winner. Finishes a little behind the music, but nobody but the judges will care. 19.3.

Dina Averina, Russia: And the crowd goes wild! People have been commenting all week on the improved quality of her execution, and it’s evident in this jazzy new routine. Perhaps the tricks are always going to take precedence with the Averina twins, but you can’t deny the difficulty or the quality of this set. 21.8.

Arina Averina, Russia: “Don Quixote” this year for Arina with the hoop. Like her twin, execution-wise she’s improved greatly during the past few months. Not a perfect routine -- had to improvise in two places, it seemed -- but a nice one all the same. 21.45.

Nicol Voronkov, Israel: Had an excellent routine going until the last 20 seconds when she overcast a throw that she had to chase out of bounds, then dropped the hoop. The first 70 seconds were terrific, however. 16.25.

Yuliana Telegina, Israel: Sleek, dramatic routine, well done. Does not suffer the same misfortunes as her teammate. 18.25.


GOLD - Dina Averina, RUS
SILVER - Arina Averina, RUS
BRONZE - Kaho Minagawa, JPN
4. Salome Pazhava, GEO
5. Neviana Vladinova, BUL
6. Yuliana Telegina, ISR
7. Anastasia Salos, BLR
8. Nicol Voronkov, ISR


Anastasia Salos, Belarus: Spends the second half of the routine chasing the ball around the carpet. Oh dear...having some trouble controlling her difficulty today. 13.4.

Sabina Tashkenbaeva, Uzbekistan: Pretty work but several control errors in this routine to Pink Martini’s “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love.” 14.8.

Rebecca Gergalo, Finland: Most gymnasts opt for soft and pretty with the ball, but Gergalo goes for a far more aggressive, sultry approach to “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Best routine so far. 17.85.

Nicol Voronkov, Israel: Beautiful routine from a gymnast developing a style all her own. Much better than her effort with the hoop. 18.05.

Kaho Minagawa, Japan: More signature loveliness. Too bad about losing the ball on her very first element. 17.85.

Neviana Vladinova, Bulgaria: “In the Army Now” -- her one holdover from 2018. A thoroughly enjoyable, highly entertaining routine, punctuated by Vladinova’s quick acrobatics and showmanship. 19.6.

Ekaterina Selezneva, Russia: A big moment for her if she can manage to hold her opening pose. (Takes two tries -- granted, her leg is above her head and the ball is perched on her foot. And she’s on tiptoe.) That done, she delivers an enchanting routine. A gymnast to watch. 20.23.

Dina Averina, Russia: More magic from Dina on an event that’s proven to be her most artistic apparatus. After last year’s Stravinsky, this year’s effort is less in-your-face but no less lovely. 21.0.

GOLD - Dina Averina, RUS
SILVER - Ekaterina Selezneva, RUS
BRONZE - Neviana Vladinova, BUL
4. Nicol Voronkov, ISR
5. Kaho Minagawa, JPN
6. Rebecca Gergalo, FIN
7. Sabina Tashkenbaeva, UZB
8. Anastasia Salos, BLR


Aleksandra Soldatova, Russia: One thing about Soldatova is that unlike some of the others, she’s not too adept at covering up her errors -- when she makes one, as she did on her first backspin, it’s obvious. Not her best effort, perhaps, but the judges reward it with 19.7 all the same.

Neviana Vladinova, Bulgaria: Two dropped clubs in this routine, but this fast-paced Spanish number has so much potential! Everyone’s been performing so well that it’s hard to remember it’s February. 17.45.

Nicol Voronkov, Israel: Another very capable set from Voronkov, 11th in the AA yesterday. 18.45.

Kaho Minagawa, Japan: With “McCavity” from Cats, Kaho goes cabaret. 18.4.

Ekaterina Vedeneeva, Slovenia: The former Russian national team member returns to Moscow to show off her Russian training. Enjoyable performance for 16.7.

Anastasia Salos, Belarus: Several drops in this routine to “Rebel Just For Kicks.” It’s really not her day. 14.3.

Dina Averina, Russia: Seven routines in, Dina finally makes a couple of palpable mistakes, but like at last year’s Worlds in this event, she has so much difficulty packed into this exercise it basically doesn’t matter. This routine, to Azerbaijani singer Arash’s “Temptation” (a nod to Worlds being in Baku this year), is most likely to become the her 2019 routine. 19.3.

Salome Pazhava, Georgia: Speaking of iconic routines, after two years as the Joker with the clubs, Pazhava has gone in an entirely different direction. Her new clubs set is to a melodic, almost melancholic duet to “California Dreaming” and it’s so smooth she almost seems to be ice skating rather than dancing on a carpet. Judges love it too: 19.2.

GOLD - Aleksandra Soldatova, RUS
SILVER - Dina Averina, RUS
BRONZE - Salome Pazhava, GEO
4. Nicol Voronkov, ISR
5. Kaho Minagawa, JPN
6. Neviana Vladinova, BUL
7. Ekaterina Selezneeva, SLO
8. Anastasia Salos, BLR


Yuliana Telegina, Israel: A routine out of a fairy tale, right down to the rainbow ribbon. 16.8.

Salome Pazhava, Georgia: Classic Pazhava -- a wonderfully constructed routine pulled off with her special aplomb, but two drops of the apparatus.The day Pazhava puts it all together, as she did several times in 2015, the year she was fourth in the world in the all-around, will be a great day indeed. 14.55.

Arina Averina, Russia: Arina looks none too joyous after this dramatic, rather heavy piano piece with the ribbon, but the judges liked it. 20.3.

Anastasia Salos, Belarus: The most serious routine in Salos’s repertoire is also the one she’s performed best in her four finals today. Watching it is like fast-forwarding to the competitor she’ll be in a few years. 17.95.

Sabina Tashkenbaeva, Uzbekistan: A beat-driven ribbon routine closes out Tashkenbaeva’s day here. Essentially one drop. 16.4.

Kaho Minagawa, Japan: The apparatus best suited to her expression and movement, this routine (a holdover from last year) is as enchanting as ever. When she does it well, it’s transportive. Unfortunately this time there was a knot in the ribbon at the beginning and a drop toward the end. Even so, it barely detracted from the performance quality. 16.8.

Neviana Vladinova, Bulgaria: Dramatic presentation. 16.75.

Dina Averina, Russia: This new routine to “Une Vie d’Amour” by Charles Aznavour and Mireille Mathieu represents a big jump in elegance for Dina. Elegance is not something that has been associated with the Averina twins to this point, but it’s not something they’ve gone for much, either. As noted, Dina’s been making presentation strides. 19.45.

GOLD - Arina Averina, RUS
SILVER - Dina Averina, RUS
BRONZE - Anastasia Salos, BLR
4. Yuliana Telegina, ISR
4. Kaho Minagawa, JPN
6. Neviana Vladinova, BUL
7. Sabina Tashkenbaeva, UZB
8. Salome Pazhava, GEO