LONDON - The rhythmic gymnastics event opened at Wembley Arena yesterday, destined to be a Russian festival. In that atmosphere, Israel's Neta Rivkin placed 14th after the first two apparatuses while Team Israel earned eighth place at the midpoint of its qualifier.

Rivkin, who needs to finish among the top 10 to advance to the final, started out in promising fashion. She scored 27.450 in the hoop apparatus and was ranked first after the first rotation. Rivkin performed last in the second rotation and could already see the daunting scores of the Russians - Daria Dmitrieva led with 57.800 points, while Evgeniya Kanaeva held second place with 57.625 points.

The Israeli knew that success in the ball apparatus similar to the hoop would keep her firmly in position for the final, around seventh or eighth place. It looked like she was on her way early on but then she made an unforced error, dropping the ball out of the performance area. That mistake cost her a penalty of 0.45, not to mention scoring for execution. She received 26.200 points and dropped to 14th.

"I had a good exercise in the hoop in terms of both the elements and the execution with the apparatus itself," she said afterward, looking disappointed. "In the ball apparatus I made a bad mistake, but regarding the elements I executed what was needed. It's a mistake they take off a lot for. I hope to improve tomorrow."

Rivkin said she needs to be more focused and have more confidence for today's club and ribbon apparatuses. "I believe I lost my concentration with the ball, and that's too bad," she said. "The feeling is a little different from the last Olympiad, but it's still exciting. I saw the fans and want to thank all those in the arena who cheered me. It gave me strength and motivation."

After Rivkin, Israel's team of Moran Buzovski, Viktoriya Koshel, Noa Palatchy, Marina Shults, Polina Zakaluzny and Eliora Zholkovski went on fifth in the group preliminary. They executed a dazzling exercise with interesting, daring moves passing the ball from teammate to teammate. The judges gave the team 26.500, which placed them in eighth - the lowest spot from which to qualify for Sunday's final.

"We're pleased with the results and so are the coaches, and that's most important," Buzovski said. Buzovski added that the team's strongest apparatus - the three ribbons and two hoops - is today, which they hope will propel them into the final.

Shults, 17, marking her first Olympic performance, said it was exciting to be at the Games. "I was concerned I would be a little afraid, but it was okay," she said. "I gained a lot of confidence from the first apparatus."

Needless to say, the team leading after the first apparatus is none other than the Russians, with a score of 28.375.