Israel's Ashram ends Russian Olympic reign with shock rhythmic win

Tokyo (AFP) –


Israel's Linoy Ashram claimed a shock victory in the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final on Saturday, edging out three-time world champion Dina Averina to end two decades of Russian Olympic dominance.

Ashram clung on despite a mistake in her closing ribbon routine to win with 107.800 points overall, just 0.150 ahead of Averina.

The 22-year-old becomes just the third Israeli Olympic champion, following in the footsteps of sailor Gal Fridman and Artem Dolgopyat, who won men's floor gold in the artistic gymnastics in Tokyo.

It is the first time a Russian has failed to win the title since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and is arguably one of the biggest surprises in the sport's history.

Russian gymnasts have also won 12 of the past 14 world championship all-around golds. One of the two times they missed out was in 2001, when Alina Kabaeva was stripped of her title after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Ashram, the 2018 world all-around silver medallist, had been in good form this season, but was not expected to beat identical twin sisters Dina and Arina Averina.

The twins, between them, had won every major championship all-around title they had competed for since the 2016 Rio Olympics.

They also finished first and second in Friday's qualifying, with Ashram third.

But Arina, the older of the pair by 20 minutes, missed out on the podium completely as a knot in her ribbon allowed Belarus's Alina Harnasko to grab bronze with 102.700 points.

Ashram led through the first three rotations. A dazzling clubs performance, which scored 28.650 points, was the highlight.

But she gave Dina Averina a chance to overhaul her with a drop in the ribbon, which potentially cost her a whole point.

Dina Averina was forced to settle for silver in the all-around final
Dina Averina was forced to settle for silver in the all-around final Martin BUREAU AFP

Averina produced a clean routine, before an agonising wait as the judges made absolutely sure of the score.

The tension was broken after several long minutes. Averina was judged to have come up just short, with Ashram then confirmed as champion after a desperate Russian inquiry request.

Ashram's teammates and the Israeli media in the otherwise mainly empty stands at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre celebrated, while a devastated Averina broke down in tears, realising an era had come to an end.