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The U.S. will send a full rhythmic gymnastics team to the Olympic Games for the first time since the discipline entered the program 37 years ago.
Led by 21-year-old veteran Laura Zeng, the nation’s most accomplished rhythmic gymnast, the team has the potential to leave Tokyo with historic results.
Zeng finished top-10 at the past four world championships, including a U.S.-record sixth place in 2017, and won six event medals in World Cup competition. When she competes Aug. 6-7, Zeng will become just the second two-time U.S. Olympic rhythmic gymnast.
She was 11th in Rio, two years after taking bronze at the Youth Olympics, and any improvement on that in Tokyo would be the highest finish ever by an American.
Evita Griskenas will join her in the individual event.
She was eighth at the 2019 World Championships, and Zeng 10th, earning the U.S. the maximum two individual Olympic spots for the first time since 1992.
Griskenas, 20, won gold in the all-around and three of four events at the 2019 Pan American Games, where she was named NextGen Female Athlete.
Zeng earned her record-tying sixth U.S. title on Sunday, with Griskenas second for the fourth year running, to lock in those Olympic berths for themselves.
The U.S. is also fielding a rhythmic group for just the third time, consisting of Isabelle Connor, Camilla Feeley, Lili Mizuno, Nicole Sladkov and Elizaveta Pletneva.
The U.S. was ninth in group at the 1984 Olympics and 14th in 2016.
In 2019, the U.S. group was second at the Pan American Games and 10th at Worlds.
The squad’s makeup has since changed, though, with the addition of former individual standouts Feeley and Mizuno.
Feeley was the 2019 Pan Am Games silver medalist behind Griskenas and top-three at nationals from 2016-19. Mizuno, who first competed with the group this year, was fifth at U.S. Championships from 2017-19.
In Tokyo, groups perform two routines — five balls and three hoops/four clubs — for the all-around competition.
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Laura Zeng leads first full U.S. Olympic rhythmic gymnastics team originally appeared on NBCSports.com