Son Yeon-jae wrote a new chapter in the history of Korean rhythmic gymnastics by winning the individual all-around at a World Cup event in Lisbon on Saturday.
This is also Korea’s first-ever medal in this discipline at a senior-level competition hosted by the International Gymnastics Federation.
Son earned the highest marks in three events — 17.900 points in hoop, 17.800 in ball and 17.550 in club — and the second-highest score of 17.950 points in ribbon.
With a combined total of 71.200 points she collected the gold with a convincing lead over runner-up Melitina Staniouta of Belarus (68.150) and third-place finisher Dina Averina of Russia (68.000).
Son had slightly less competition this time around as some of the world’s top athletes did not compete. Russia’s Yana Kudryavtseva, the reigning world champion in the individual all-around, was absent, as was Ganna Rizatdinova of Ukraine and Margarita Mamun of Russia. They usually receive scores in the region of 18 points for each event.
Son, who finished fifth in the 2010 Olympics in London, has previously missed out on a medal in the individual all-around due to a loss of focus or stamina in one or two events.
But as her goal for this year is to win gold at the Incheon Asian Games in September, she has made all four programs more diverse and mature.
Son will compete at a World Cup event in Pesaro, Italy next week before returning home for the Korean Cup and a gala show.