The Israeli women’s rhythmic gymnastics team made it through to the finals of the all-around competition at the Rio Olympics on Saturday, finishing the two qualifying rounds with a total score of 34.883.
The team scored 17.633 in the second rotation of hoops and clubs, securing sixth place and therefore a spot in Sunday’s medal-chasing final eight. That rotation came after the team made a solid start earlier Saturday in the first rotation, the ribbon, scoring 17.250 and finishing in seventh place.
On Sunday, the slates are wiped clean, and the eight teams in the final start over in their quests for medals.
The rhythmic gymnastics team — which won a gold in the hoops and clubs discipline at the European Championships in June — represents Israel’s last realistic chance of a third medal at the Rio games, following its two bronze medals for judo. (There are no medals for the individual disciplines in Rio; just for the all-around performances.)
On Friday, Israel’s Neta Rivkin failed to advance past the qualifying rounds in the individual rhythmic gymnastics, when her final total score of 69.223 was not enough to earn her a place in the top 10.
Rivkin performed well in the first rotation, the ball, earning a score of 17.866 and landing herself the sixth spot out of 26.
But she dropped the hoop and the ribbon in the next two rotations, scoring 17.041 and 16.783, respectively. Her final score of 17.533 for the clubs rotation was not enough to push her through.
In an interview with the Hebrew-language Walla news website two weeks ago, Rivkin called rhythmic gymnastics a sport “that takes you to the brink of your abilities.”
“Let’s just say that most of what we do is stuff the human body is not meant to be doing,” she said. “Every element of every exercise requires thousands of rehearsals to reach perfection, and then you still continue practicing it.”
Rivkin, 25, described her grueling training, saying that “full-time employment for a person in an office is 180 hours a month. I train for 270 hours, and then it is all funneled to 90 seconds of performing.”
The gymnast noted in the interview that she was one of just three Israeli athletes who made it to the Olympics in her field. She also competed in the Olympics in London in 2012, where she finished seventh overall.
Rivkin carried the Israeli flag at the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, leading the country’s record-breaking delegation of 47 athletes participating in 17 sports.
Israel has so far claimed two medals in the 2016 Games, with judokas Or Sasson and Yarden Gerbi both winning a bronze.