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Sunday, August 29, 2004
Kabaeva holds on to win gold

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- No way Alina Kabaeva was letting the gold medal slip from her grasp this time.

Four years after watching her medal hopes end when she lost control of her hoop, the two-time world champion from Russia won the rhythmic gymnastics all-around Sunday in a rout. She finished with 108.400 points, more than a point ahead of silver medalist Irina Tchachina of Russia. Anna Bessonova of Ukraine took the bronze.

Mary Sanders, the only American in the competition, didn't make the finals.

Kabaeva knew the gold was hers when she finished her last routine, shimmying her shoulders and shaking her hips as she walked off the mat. When the final results were posted, she exchanged a long hug with Tchachina and then gave fans a thumbs up.

Kabaeva was the heavy favorite to win gold in Sydney, but she had to settle for the bronze when her hoop skittered away from her and she had to run off the mat to get it. She won a second world title in 2001, but had to give it back after testing positive for a diuretic at the Goodwill Games. She also was banned from competition for a year.

Tchachina, second at the 2001 world championships, tested positive for the same drug and also had to give back her medal.

Kabaeva returned to competition last September at the world championships, winning another world title and establishing herself as the one to beat in Athens. And this time, she didn't falter. After finishing second to Tchachina in the first event, that dreaded hoop, Kabaeva won the last three.