Melitina Staniouta

Outlasting Linoy Ashram, Dina Averina takes all-around gold at European Games

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Consistency carried two-time world champion Dina Averina to the European Games all-around title Saturday in Minsk, the 20-year-old’s mastery of the extraordinary difficulty that packs her routines helping her outlast her Israeli rival Linoy Ashram, the only gymnast in the world who has been able to challenge the Averina supremacy in rhythmic gymnastics.

Even without the in-competition support of her identical twin Arina, Dina, a master of apparatus difficulty (a rhythmic vocabulary word that basically means ‘tricks with the apparatus’) glided and shimmied her way through four impressively tough performances to further gild her legacy as the top rhythmic gymnast of the quadrennium.

A stand-in for her sister, who was originally tapped to represent Russia in Minsk, Dina went about the competition with her typical businesslike manner, consistently and unapologetically showing a difficulty level second to none among the world’s elite rhythmic gymnasts and being richly rewarded for it by the judges, employing a code of points that rewards difficulty more than artistic merit.

Her best score of the day, a mammoth 23.6, came for her performance to an orchestral medley with the ball. A dropped club on what is usually her strongest apparatus was the only flaw in an otherwise faultless overall performance where she tallied a total score of 87.75 points.

Ashram, the only gymnast who has proven capable of challenging Averina on a good day, nearly pulled off an upset. The 20-year-old danced effortlessly through her extraordinary difficulty through the first three apparatus to accumulate a 2.3 point lead over Averina, only to give the lead away after a meltdown with the ribbon in her final routine. Her 17.45 — for a total of 84.7 — did assure her the silver, and even earned her the final spot in Sunday’s hoop final.

“I have a mix of satisfaction and disappointment about today’s performance,” said the affable Ashram, whose 23.3 with the clubs was the high score of her meet. The silver, in any case, is “a positive result,” she added.

Belarusan star Katsiaryna Halkina started slowly but built as the day went on, charming with her signature quirky elegance to finish with bronze four years after compatriot Melitina Staniouta achieved the same result at the inaugural European Games in Baku. Halkina’s 79.3 was enough to hold off the surging Alexandra Agiurgiuculese of Italy (77.95), a double bronze medalist from the 2018 World Championships.

Ukraine’s Vlada Nikolchenko, just 16 and right in the thick of the bronze medal race throughout the day, settled for fifth with 77.875 after numerous problems in her last routine with the ribbon, though her 22.4 with the hoop was the top score of the day with that apparatus.

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