RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS U.S. seeks review of Sanders' marks
XATHENS, Greece -- The first hoop went flying. The first scoring complaint wasn't too far behind.
Feeling gymnast Mary Sanders was underscored on her hoop routine, the Americans added the oft-ridiculed and misunderstood sport of rhythmic gymnastics to the Olympic gripe-fest Thursday, filing an inquiry seeking a review of her marks.
Sanders finished 18th out of 24 gymnasts on opening day for rhythmic. The top 10 gymnasts after today's second round advance to finals. Sanders received a technical score -- the measure of difficulty -- of 4.6 in hoop.
The 4.6 was lower than anyone in the field except for competitors from Australia, South Africa and Cape Verde. The technical score is one of three elements judged in a rhythmic routine. The others are artistic value and execution. All have a maximum value of 10. Sanders' score in the other two elements was more in line with the other competitors.
"We don't know why the score was so low," American rhythmic program director Jan Exner said. "If there had been an obvious error in her routine, we would not have inquired, but there was not. We felt it was the prudent thing to do."
First to qualify
Sanders is the first American in six Olympics to qualify for the games based on her score from the previous year's world championships, as opposed to making it because she's from the host country. She finished ninth at worlds.
"It's a European-dominated sport," Sanders said. "Hopefully, it comes down to what happens on the carpet, but we'll see."
Favorites almost always take gold in rhythmic, unless something unusual happens. In the last Olympics, Alina Kabaeva of Russia was supposed to win gold, but her hoop went skittering out of bounds. The mistake couldn't be overlooked, and she won bronze.
Kabaeva came into these Olympics as the defending world champion -- a favorite again -- and she was in first after the first two rotations with 53.3 points despite dropping the hoop again.
Just behind Kabaeva were Tchachina and Anna Bessonova of Ukraine. In team competition, Russia and Italy led the eight teams who will move into the finals on Saturday.