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Bezzoubenko eyes Olympic berth at 2015 rhythmic gymnastics world championships

Bezzoubenko, hoping to claim Canada’s first Olympic berth in individual rhythmic gymnastics since the Beijing Summer Games in 2008, ranked 13th with 16.866 points for her ball routine while teammate Carmen Whelan of Toronto placed 26th with 15.283 points.

Reigning all around world champion Yana Kudryavtseva of Russia was tops in the ball event with 18.933 points and Ganna Rizatdinova of the Ukraine led the field in the hoops competition with 18.366 points.

“I was a little shaky in the beginning, but when I took a breath and relaxed, I felt more comfortable,” said Whelan, ranked second in Canada behind Bezzoubenko at the 2015 Canadian championships.

“I’m competing against myself pretty much and I’m always trying to push my personal best.”

Qualifications continue on Tuesday in ball and hoop followed by clubs and ribbon on Wednesday and Thursday.

While Bezzoubenko and Whelan are set to compete in all four events, Canada’s other world championship rookie, Katherine Uchida of Toronto, will focus on clubs and ribbon when she makes her debut later this week.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life getting ready for a competition,” said Uchida.

“At this point in my career I’m nowhere near the top of the ranks. All I can really do is enjoy myself and when I do, I can perform well, and that’s my big goal here.”

The top 15 individual all around gymnasts at this year’s world championships will  clinch one of 26 Olympic berths for Rio with the remaining spots to be determined at a final qualification meet in April.

Canada’s six-member team in the group event is also looking to qualify for the Games at this year’s world championships with competition set to begin on Saturday.

Members of the team are: Katrina Cameron of Mississauga, Ont., Maya Kojevnikov of Richmond Hill, Ont., Lucinda Nowell of Toronto, Vanessa, Panov of Toronto, Anjelika Reznik and Victoria Reznik of Vaughan, Ont.

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