LIMA, Peru – At the Pan American Games Toronto 2015, U.S. rhythmic gymnast Laura Zeng set an extremely high benchmark. She became only the second American gymnast to earn gold in all five disciplines – all-around, hoop, clubs, ribbon, and balls. On Saturday, Evita Griskenas and Camilla Feeley embraced Zeng’s legacy with strong performances.
Griskenas earned the gold medal with a score of 75.825 in the individual all-round event while Feeley finishing 5.100 points behind her for silver. Additionally, the U.S. group rhythmic gymnasts earned silver in the all-around final with a score of 45.975, falling 2.400 points shy of gold.
“It means that I have to keep working more,” Griskenas said of winning the gold. “Because I would like to get to the even bigger games. And I would like to repeat this experience again and again because I love the sport. So far it’s been wonderful.”
“[I’m] ecstatic,” Feeley said. “It’s such a great competition. I was happy to be able to put the U.S. up there.”
A place on the podium for both gymnasts was ultimately secured after their next-closest competitor, Canada’s Katherine Uchida, missed a ribbon throw in the final 15 seconds of her last routine. The wand fell from the air and clapped on the carpet, just out of the reach of her outstretched hand.
Griskenas and Feeley came into the final day of the individual all-around first and second after Friday’s hoop and ball routines. Griskenas’ scores of 19.900 for her hoop and 19.925 for her ball routine were the highest recorded scores for each apparatus. She was the only gymnast to post scores above the 19.000 mark in any apparatus during the event.
“Each routine had something that I was proud of,” she said. “I like analyzing things that way. With hoop, I was proud of being on time with the music and showing energy. With ball, I was proud of myself for managing the carpet even though I got a little lost at some point. With clubs, I’m happy that I managed. And with ribbon, I’m very proud that I was able to express myself the way I needed too.”
To the tune of Louis Armstrong’s cover of “Go Down Moses,” Griskenas scored a third-best 17.500 for her clubs routine. Though it was lower than she’d hoped, she maintained a 3.55 point lead over Feeley and a 5.825 point lead over Uchida heading into the final apparatus – the ribbon.
After completing a near-flawless ribbon routine, sitting on the couch and waiting anxiously for her score from the judges was merely a formality. She only needed 13.400 points to overtake Feeley for gold. She scored 18.500.
Feeley did add some pressure after her clubs routine. She closed the gap between her and her teammate after posting the round’s highest score, 18.000. Dancing to Michael Jackson’s cover of the Beatles’ hit, “Come Together,” she executed each spin and throw flawlessly, receiving zero deductions. While waiting for her scores, she grasped her coaches’ hands, shaking them in celebration. Feeley described how she remained focused over the two-day span of events.
“I try to stay in my own little bubble and listen to music,” she said. “And then I go back out on the carpet and just know that I can do it. I just stay focused on myself.”
In the team all-around final, the U.S. was in third coming into the three hoops/two clubs routine. Brazil came into the day in first place, scoring 23.650 in the five-ball routine on Friday. But after a club and a hoop went out of the boundary area during Brazil’s performance, the U.S. took advantage of the mistakes and jumped ahead. Nobody was able to catch the group from Mexico, whose 24.850-point performance in the three hoops/two clubs routine was the highest recorded score during the group all-around final.
After posting a 22.825 score for the five-ball discipline, the young group of U.S. gymnasts took to the floor to complete their three hoops/two clubs routine to finish their all-around final. The squad marched onto the carpet and began their routine. With each toss of their hoops and clubs, their score climbed. Clubs and hoops crisscrossed each other in mid-air, narrowly missing each other. At one point, the squad connected all four clubs end-to-end. One gymnast then leaped over them, completing the difficult trick. The unit moved as one. Their synchronicity was automatic. They earned a score of 23.150 – the second-highest score for the round.
“We’ve grown so close,” said Isabelle Connor. “We’re literally inseparable, like we’re sisters.”
“It’s really awesome that we can experience this together,” Elizaveta Pletneva added. “And we’re ready to fight even harder for the next two days.”
With their results today, Griskenas, Feeley and the group will compete in the individual disciplines to add to medal collections.