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Serebryanskaya Finishes First in Rhythmic Semifinals

August 3, 1996

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ Ekaterina Serebryanskaya draws comfort in the fact that, just like in football, one fumble doesn’t necessarily mean defeat in rhythmic gymnastics.

Serebryanskaya did poorly in her second event, the clubs, but came back with two near-perfect routines Saturday to finish first in the Olympic semifinals with 39.332 points. Her Ukranian teammate, Elena Vitrichenko, was second with 39.266.

``I’ll try to concentrate not on the medal, but on the exercise only,″ Serebryanskaya said, cradling the good-luck Izzy doll given her by gold medalist Lilia Podkopayeva, also of the Ukraine.

Ianina Batyrchina of Russia was third, followed by Maria Petrova of Bulgaria and Larisa Loukianenko of Belarus. Also advancing to Sunday’s finals were Tatiana Ogryzko of Belarus, Amina Zaripova of Russia, Eva Serrano of France, Almudena Cid Tostado of Spain and Magdalena Brzeska of Germany.

Scoring starts from scratch in Sunday’s medal round.

The only American competing in the individual event, Jessica Davis, did not make it to Saturday’s semifinals. The San Anselmo, Calif., resident finished 30th among the 37 performers in the qualifier.

Serebryanskaya, who shares the world champion title with Petrova, took the lead after her first routine, dancing and twirling effortlessly with the ball. Her 9.933 was the highest score awarded so far in the individual competition and included the first of her three perfect 5s for composition.

But on her next routine, her right club fell and bounced across the floor. Her 9.583 dropped her to fourth place and allowed Vitrichenko to take the lead.

``I’m sure it (the mistake) will not happen tomorrow,″ Serebryanskaya said.

Serebryanskaya regained the lead with a near-flawless ribbon routine. She got the crowd clapping with jazzy music, and kept them cheering as she tossed her white ribbon high into the air, tumbling across the floor to catch it with ease.

The routine earned her a second perfect 5 for composition. She finished with a spectacular rope routine, and her third perfect mark for composition.

The crowd at the University of Georgia Coliseum cheered loudly as she finished, and Serebryanskaya responded by waving as she ran off the floor.

Vitrichenko didn’t seem bothered by her second-place finish, even though she had four clean routines.

``These are practice today,″ she said. ``The competition is tomorrow.″

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