But the Russians did not dominate the competition from start to finish. The team (Anastasia Maksimova, Anastasia Tatareva, Maria Tolkacheva, Anastasia Bliznyuk and Vera Biriukova) finished behind Spain in Saturday's qualification round, and trailed the Spanish by 0.2 after the first routine in Sunday's new life final.
A bobble with a Ribbon even left the Russian Group third at the halfway point, though within striking distance of the leaders. The 2015 World champions closed the gap with an inspired performance with the 2 Hoops/3 Pairs of Clubs to Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," earning the highest score in Group competition in Rio and rendering them impossible to catch.
The gold makes a double Olympic champion of Anastasia Bliznyuk, the sole holdout from the London 2012 team. Bliznyuk is only the third Rhythmic Group gymnast to win two gold medals in Olympic competition.
20 years after gold, Spain shines in silver
After their fourth place finish four years ago, Sandra Aguilar, Elena Lopez, Lourdes Mohedano, Alejandra Quereda and newcomer Artemi Gavezou came to Rio determined not to leave empty-handed this time. Their silver medal marks their first podium finish since 1996, when the country won the inaugural Olympic title in Rhythmic Group.
Bulgaria bronzed 12 years after Athens
Like Spain, Bulgaria returned four of its five members from 2012. With bronze, Reneta Kamberova, Lyubomira Kazanova, Mihaela Maevska, Tsvetelina Naydenova and Hristiana Todorova capped off a successful quadrennium that included the World title in 2014. They brought the country its third Olympic medal, following bronze in 2004 and silver in 1996.
It was Italy's fate to taste the bitterness of a chocolate medal. The Italians shut out Spain by a mere half a point four years ago, but the "Butterflies," as they are known at home, found themselves the odd team out this time, 0.217 behind Bulgaria. Belarus, Israel, Ukraine and Japan rounded out the eight-team field.
FIG: The International Gymnastics Federation is the governing body for gymnastics worldwide. It is the oldest established international sports federation and has participated in the Olympic Games since their revival in 1896. The FIG governs seven disciplines: Gymnastics for All, Men's Artistic, Women's Artistic, Rhythmic, Trampoline, Aerobic and Acrobatic. It counts 142 national member federations and boasts a 28-person staff at its international seat in Lausanne (SUI), host city of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).