Laura Zeng competes in the rhythmic gymnastics hoop finals at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games on July 19, 2015 in Toronto.
Laura Zeng made rhythmic gymnastics history by winning a pair of bronze medals on Sunday in the apparatus finals at the world cup event in Minsk, Belarus. The medals, in hoop and ribbon, are the first won by a U.S. rhythmic gymnast at world cup competition.
Zeng scored 18.050 for her podium finish in hoop, 0.95 behind the 19.000 received by gold medalist Margarita Mamun of Russia. Melitina Staniouta of Belarus was second with 18.700. In ribbon, Zeng also received an 18.050, behind the 18.950 of Mamun and 18.850 by Russia’s Aleksandra Soldatova. Zeng also placed seventh in the individual all-around on Saturday.
Although individual event medals will not be awarded at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the two bronzes are yet another step toward the goal of an individual all-around medal. The two apparatuses Zeng used to medal, the hoop and ribbon, will be among the four competed (along with ball and clubs) in the all-around in Rio.
The reigning U.S. all-around national champion, Zeng continues to push the envelope in terms of international results for the United States. Last September she had the highest placement ever for a U.S. rhythmic gymnast at the world championships. Her eighth-place finish was two better than the 10th recorded by Mary Sanders in 2003.
Zeng led the United States in dominating rhythmic competition at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, becoming only the second athlete to sweep all five individual golds. She also won bronze in the all-around at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, establishing herself as an up-and-coming talent on the international scene. In the past year she has recorded a number of top-10 finishes in European competition, further solidifying her reputation among international judges as the Rio Games approach.