Israel's rhythmic gymnastics team finished the Olympic group all-around competition in eighth and last place in Sunday's final at the Wembley Arena, despite two fine, almost faultless performances.
The Israeli team of Moran Buzovski, Viktoriya Koshel, Noa Palatchy, Marina Shults and Polina Zakaluzny scored a cumulative 26.750 points in the ball exercise - an improvement on their score in the qualifying round - but did less well in the ribbons and hoops apparatus, scoring 26.675 points in each event, a lower score than they got in the qualifying round.
However, despite some impressive performances, Israel finished eighth. This was two positions lower than in Beijing four years ago, but still a very respectable result - and the team's second successive Olympic final. And this follows Neta Rivkin's excellent seventh place in the individual all-around competition on Friday.
The gymnasts appeared well satisfied with themselves after the competition. "We're not in the least bit disappointed," said Buzovski. "We did four exercises with only the tiniest of errors, and we're all really happy with our performances."
She dismissed questions regarding any anti-Israeli bias from the judges. "We're not judges," said Buzovski. "We're just happy with our performance. Our coaches are also satisfied, and that's what counts."
Zakaluzny added: "We're not at all disappointed by our position. We performed our exercises well and we were in an Olympic final."
"I admit that it feels like we're the tail of a lioness and not the head of a wolf," said Palatchy, characterizing the distance Israeli rhythmic gymnastics still has to go before competing realistically for an Olympic medal.
Despite the Israelis' almost faultless performances, the gap between them and the medalists was obvious. "Maybe the lesson was that the girls have to be more daring, to try more difficult and complex exercises," offered one member of the coaching staff. "The result was what we expected. We have no complaints."
What will be the future of the Israeli national rhythmic gymnastics team?
"It's too early to take decisions right now," said Shults. "After all, we're all still young and can continue further. We'll return to Israel and then think about what to do next."
Buzovski, the team's unofficial spokeswoman, added this insight: "In any case, we'll stay together after what we've been through. Even if we won't be together in the national team, we'll always remain friends."
As expected, Russia, with a performance a level above all the rest of the competitors, won the gold medal, followed by Belarus and Italy.
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