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S. Korean rhythmic gymnast to face real test in Italy

All Headlines 10:53 April 01, 2016

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae will face her strongest opponents yet this season at an International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) competition in Italy over the weekend, as she gears up for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

Son is set to compete at the season's third FIG World Cup in Pesaro, Italy, that runs from Friday to Sunday. She begins her campaign later Friday, performing hoop and ball in the individual all-around.

Son, who finished fifth in individual all-around at the London Games, has been solid this season. The 21-year-old collected the individual all-around silver medal at the Moscow Grand Prix and the season's first FIG World Cup event in Espoo, Finland, in February. Last month, she finished fourth in individual all-around at the Lisbon World Cup, but posted a career-high score of 18.550 in both ball and clubs.

Son will have her toughest challenge of this season at the Pesaro World Cup as Yana Kudryavtseva of Russia, a three-time world all-around champion, and her compatriot Margarita Mamun, a two-time world all-around silver medalist, will make their first World Cup appearances this season.

The two Russians are considered the top favorites to win gold medals in Rio. They have skipped the last two World Cups to recover from injuries and polish up their programs.

They join compatriot Aleksandra Soldatova, who has topped the individual all-around in the last two World Cups, and Ukraine's Ganna Rizatdinova, who finished runner-up to Soldatova in Lisbon. Melitina Staniouta, who took bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships, will also perform in Pesaro.

Son has collected medals at each of the previous World Cups. At the Espoo World Cup, she took a gold medal in ball, silvers in individual all-around and ribbon, and a bronze in hoop. At the Lisbon World Cup, the rhythmic gymnast finished runner-up in ball and clubs, while finishing third in hoop.

Though her chances of winning medals in Pesaro appear smaller than the previous World Cups, Son will have a good opportunity to check her level against the world's top performers ahead of the Rio Games. Her South Korean teammate Chun Song-e will also perform in Pesaro.

After completing the event, Son will return to her homeland on Tuesday and prepare for the national team qualification for the Rio Olympics on April 9 at Taeneung National Training Center in Seoul.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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