There were plenty of multi-colored ribbons and florescent clubs flying through the air at Wembley Arena on Friday, but when South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae was out to impress the judges with her juggling act, a UFO was suddenly spotted.
Was it a piece of confetti, or a small bouquet of flowers thrown in by an admirer in the audience?
No, it was Son’s ballet shoe that had gone flying off her feet as she performed a fast-paced pirouette during her crowd-pleasing Olympic clubs routine.
Looking rather sheepish, she reclaimed the runaway shoe at the end of her performance and a score of 26.35 made sure she stayed in the running for a medal as she made the cut for yesterday’s final, which would feature the top-10 qualifiers.
“I was very embarrassed as it’s never happened to me before,” the 18-year-old, still a little red-faced from the episode, said after finishing sixth.
“I got a little tense and started sweating and the shoe simply slipped off,” she added.
Leading the way was 2008 champion Evgeniya Kanaeva, whose hoop mishap from Thursday was a distant memory as she dazzled with the clubs and twirled her way through an exquisite exhibition with the ribbon.
Her scores of 28.975 and 29.4 could not be surpassed as she eclipsed Russian teammate and overnight leader Daria Dmitrieva by 1.475 points.
Dmitrieva had been leading after each of the first three rotations, but her juggling act was more in line with the skills shown by the clown acts of the Moscow State Circus than by an Olympic gold-medal hopeful.
She dropped the clubs not once, but twice, to draw her lowest score of 27.8.
Luckily for her, scores will start from scratch in the final.
That is a luxury not available to British hopeful Francesca Jones, who missed the cut after finishing last of the 24 competitors in qualifying.
Rhythmic gymnastics rules state “the maximum score for each routine is 30 and an excellent score is 28, a good score is 26 and fair score is 24.”
Jones fell below those, with her scores of 23.9 and 21.975.
She momentarily lost sight of her ribbon during her first performance and was then left baffled as one of her shocking-pink clubs went AWOL after it flew out of her hands and straight off the mat.
Unable to spot its whereabouts, her music played on for several seconds as fans sitting in the front rows stood up to point out where the prop was lying.
The 21-year-old eventually picked it up to complete her routine, but by then it was too late.
“It was a such a mistake that you can’t control,” a sobbing Jones said. “I’m incredibly disappointed I couldn’t do justice to everybody who supported me.”
There was a similar ending for Britain’s entry in the group competition.
The quintet, who were barred by their own federation from competing at the Olympics before winning an appeal, defiantly saluted the cheering crowd and held up a Union flag displaying the message “Thank you!” despite finishing bottom of 12 nations.
Three-times world champions Italy proved that they could end Russia’s 12-year Olympic stranglehold of the group title after trailing by just 0.575 points in qualifying.