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Russia Leads Rhythmic Gymnastics

October 18, 2001

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Alina Kabaeva led Russia to a strong start Thursday in the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, giving her team a comfortable lead as it begins defense of its title.

Choosing the hoop for her first routine, the 1999 world champion and three-time European champion chalked up the highest score of the day _ 28.500 points _ and was equally dazzling in the ball routine, receiving a score of 28.350.

Kabaeva’s main rival for the individual gold medal will be teammate Irina Tchachina, who contributed 55.225 points to the Russian score of 164.325. Belarus is second with 154.200, and Bulgaria third with 152.500.

Bulgaria’s Simona Peycheva is third in the individual standings with 52.975.

Teams from 50 countries are competing at the Juan Carlos I Exhibition Center in Madrid. Russia is defending the title it won in 1999 in Osaka, Japan.

The United States is skipping the competition, citing security fears after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Update hourly