Golds galore for hosts in epic night

14 May 2017
Azerbaijan's Zhala Piriyeva (L), Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda (C) and Uzbekistan's Anastasiya Serdyukova pose on the podium after the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals at the Baku 2017.
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda poses on the podium after the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals at the Baku 2017.
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda competes during the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals

Azerbaijan delighted the home crowd in the rhythmic gymnastics individual apparatus finals, as Marina Durunda and Zhala Piriyeva both took Islamic Solidarity Games gold medals on a thrilling Sunday evening in Baku.

Piriyeva and Durunda went into the session full of confidence, having combined to win the team title at a canter on Saturday.

Durunda kicked off the gold rush with a sensational hoop routine, before Piriyeva capitalised on a rare mistake from her teammate to win the ball.
But Uzbekistan's Anastasiya Serdyukova pounced on Piriyeva's drop to claim clubs gold, although Durunda made it three from four for the hosts in the closing ribbon final.

The home favourite finished with two gold medals, a silver and a bronze, while Piriyeva added hoop bronze and ribbon silver to her ball title, and Serdyukova also made it onto the podium three times in all.

With anticipation of a famous night for the host nation building, Serdyukova sent an early reminder that it might not all go Azerbaijan's way with a fantastic hoop that scored 16.450.

Piriyeva also made an excellent start, but despite a cleverly-choreographed routine, she fell 0.4 points short of the leading mark set by Serdyukova.
The crowd were not perturbed though and Durunda was met by the sound of her name being sung throughout the arena.

The 19-year-old, who was competing in her first major competition since last summer's Olympic final after a long injury absence, was perfect with her favourite apparatus and duly collected her second gold medal of the Games with a stunning score of 17.600.

Durunda had a quick turnaround before her second tilt at victory with the ball.

Perhaps that caught her out as she made a bad drop and, despite a decent recovery, could only score 15.800 to leave the door open for teammate Piriyeva.

The talented performer Piriyeva gobbled up the opportunity with a vibrant ball display worth a massive 17.550, which was by far her best of the weekend, and Serdyukova had to settle for silver again with 16.950.

- Serdyukova briefly crashes the party -

What was already the best atmosphere of the Games so far had reached fever pitch by the interval with the fans in the mood to celebrate.

The party continued into the clubs final, as Durunda's clean attempt was rewarded with 16.550.

Serdyukova, 19, was at her brilliant best though and stunned the crowd to take the lead.

For much of Piriyeva's response, the Uzbek's score of 16.900 looked within reach, only for the 16-year-old to drop the clubs in the closing moments and commit the sport's cardinal sin of finishing without the apparatus.

The judges gave her just 15.350 to end the hopes of an Azerbaijani clean sweep, before Sabina Tashkenbaeva (16.300) made it two clubs medals for Uzbekistan.

While far from a disaster, Serdyukova's ribbon was messy and given just 14.900.

Tashkenbaeva edged ahead of her compatriot to seal her second medal, before Piriyeva set Durunda a target of 15.450 to beat.

And Durunda rounded off a golden night in the same fashion that she started it, with victory, after tying Piriyeva's score with a better execution mark to finish with three golds for the Games as a whole.

© Agence France-Presse

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