TOKYO :Russian rhythmic gymnastics stars Dina and Arina Averina on Friday took the top two spots at Tokyo's finals qualifiers with exquisite routines, setting their country up for its sixth consecutive individual all-around Olympic gold medal.
To the tune of tracks from ACDC's "Thunderstruck" to Russian folk music, the Averinas turned acrobatic pirouettes and flipped clubs while doing the splits and twisted delicately into hoops.
Dina, 22, wearing a different glittery tiara around her hair bun each time she changed her unitard, scored a combined 106.300 points for all four qualifying routines.
"There were still some mistakes that need to be fixed - I know what they are, my coach knows what they are and maybe one or two judges do," Dina said, adding that she would not reveal them in case the judges had not noticed.
Arina - Dina's older sister by 20 minutes - was a hair's breadth away from top spot at 106.175 points.
"She doesn't get nervous, she doesn't shake. She has an 'It is what it is' attitude," Dina said, adding she and her sister were not out to strategise against one another at the Games.
The twins are gold and silver medal favourites in Tokyo, with athletes from Belarus and Bulgaria hot on their heels.
Since the 1984 Soviet boycott of the Olympic Games, rhythmic gymnastics medals have been mostly won by Russia and other former Soviet states.
Russian athletes are competing under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) flag in Tokyo as part of sanctions for several doping scandals.
Israel's world Cup medallist Linoy Ashram got off to a rocky start, surprising judges in the first rotation when she lost control of her hoop seconds before her otherwise brilliant routine ended.
She more than redeemed herself in subsequent performances, getting the second rotation's highest score, 28.250, to the blare of Alphaville's "Big in Japan" and cheers of onlookers.
Overall, she scored 103.100 points, placing her in third place.
A medal event since 1984, rhythmic gymnastics competitors are judged on factors including how they use the apparatus. They are also marked on "body difficulties" such as balances, turns, and jumps, as well as execution and artistry.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Ken Ferris)