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Russia’s Yana Kudryavtseva, who has reigned over Rhythmic Gymnastics for the past several years, has assumed the final pose of her career. The 19-year-old Muscovite officially confirmed her retirement to the FIG late last month, ending of one of the most glittering careers in Rhythmic history.
The lithe Kudryavtseva won nearly every competition she entered during the last Olympic cycle, racking up 16 World medals, including three consecutive World All-around titles, and innumerable golds on the World Cup circuit. A dropped Club marred an otherwise flawless performance at last summer’s Rio Games, leaving Kudryavtseva with the silver medal, while her teammate and best friend Margarita Mamun took gold.
Kudryavtseva, the daughter of 1992 Olympic swimmer Aleksey Kudryavtsev, initially took up swimming as a three-year-old. Shortly afterward, a friend of the family recommended that she add Rhythmic Gymnastics to improve her posture and flexibility. In the gym, her potential was quickly recognised, and Rhythmic supplanted swimming as her sport.
In 2013, she twirled into the international spotlight as the heir apparent to the great Evgeniya Kanaeva, who exited stage right following her second Olympic gold in London in 2012. Untested but precocious, Kudryavtseva quickly showed what she was made of: At her debut World Championships in Kiev, she became the youngest woman ever to win the World All-around title, beating Olympians Ganna Rizatdinova and Melitina Staniouta.
Her delicate appearance hid a ferocious competitive spirit. When the music accompanying her Ribbon routine stopped unexpectedly at the 2013 Worlds, Kudryavtseva kept right on performing, undisturbed by technical malfunctions, earning herself the nickname “Angel with Iron Wings.” Two more World All-around titles followed in quick succession in 2014 and again in 2015.
Kudryavtseva is famous for her lightness and smooth way of handling the apparatus, as well as for a signature element: a front walkover done while twirling the Ball on one finger.