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You ever watch rhythmic gymnasts and wonder how the ribbons that they twirl while executing complex leaps, turns, and tosses doesn’t get constantly tied up in knots like your charger/laptop/game console wires do in that corner of your apartment that you never ever clean because then you’d have to deal with the wire mess?

Well, the answer is yes, the ribbons do get tied up in knots. They also break. And if you’re Arina Averina from Russia, both of those things happen in the same performance.


Averina, the current European champion and the 2017 world all-around silver medalist, was one of the favorites for the overall title heading into the 2018 world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. She was performing her ribbon routine during the individual qualification portion of the competition, when just a few seconds in, after a couple of turns, she discovered a knot in the ribbon. She appeared to briefly try to untangle it and then quickly ran to the edge of the floor mat, discarded the knotted ribbon and picked up an auxiliary ribbon, a plain red one to replace the defective multi-color one.

And then, about thirty seconds later, Averina tossed the ribbon up in the air and the handle thingy—technical term—seemed to come off it. Back she went to the edge of the mat to pick up a second auxiliary ribbon. The third ribbon was the charm. And by “charm” I mean it held together long enough for Averina to finish her routine.

As you can imagine, Averina wasn’t thrilled by what happened. She incurred mandatory deductions for “an unusable apparatus but also for use of the auxiliary ribbon,” according to the Olympic Channel’s story. This cost Averina a spot in the ribbon apparatus final. Also, Averina failed to advance to the individual all-around final. The two Russians who made the cut were her sister, Dina, and Aleksandra Soldatova.

You know who else wasn’t happy? Our favorite hat-wearing rhythmic gymnastics doyenne, Irina Viner-Usmanova. Here she is right after Averina finished her three-ribbon exercise.


I don’t know a lot about rhythmic gymnastics despite the fact the word “gymnastics” appears in its name, so I have no idea whether this sort of thing happens a lot in competitions. But the fact that there were at least two backup ribbons nearby suggests that something like this has happened before and more than once, though I highly doubt there had previously been two equipment malfunctions in the same routine.

I guess that sometimes that’s just the way the ribbon twirls.

Dvora Meyers is a staff writer at Deadspin.

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