Rhythmic gymnast Zeng becomes Pan Am Golden Girl

Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:06pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Laura Zeng was crowned the Pan American Games 'Golden Girl' and a future rhythmic gymnastics star on Monday as the 15-year-old American completed a sweep of individual events to bring her gold medal haul to five.

Even without the presence of the sport's super powers Russia and Belarus, the American teenager marked herself as a potential future Olympic champion, taking gold in the all-around and all four individual apparatus finals, ball, club, ribbon and hoop with style and authority.

"That (Rio Olympics) is such a huge dream of mine and it is always going to be there in the back of my mind," Zeng told Reuters. "I hope next year I can make it there but right now it is one step at a time and (I am) focusing on my next competition.

"The world championships is one of the (Rio) qualifications so that is another big goal of mine."

Zeng announced her arrival by taking bronze in the individual all-around at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. She made her senior level debut in February and has climbed to 17th in the world rankings.

Added to the Olympic program in 1984, the sport has been dominated by Eastern Europe nations. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have won every gold, silver and bronze in the all-around competition since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Canada's Lori Fung remains the only North American to have stood atop the all-around podium, taking gold at the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

It is an oversight Zeng, a remarkably composed and mature high school sophomore, plans on correcting.   Continued...

Laura Zeng of the United States competes in the rhythmic gymnastics ribbon final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Toronto Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports