Russia topped the group all-around podium in Sofia ©FIG

Russia were crowned group all-around winners at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Sofia.

Teams began the event at the Arena Armeec in the Bulgarian capital with the added incentive of knowing a podium finish would secure them Olympic qualification.

The Russian team of Mariia Kravtsova, Evgeniia Levanova, Kseniia Poliakova, Anastasia Shishmakova, Anastasiia Tatareva and Maria Tolkacheva took a major step towards Tokyo 2020 and World Championship gold in the five hoops discipline.

They were awarded a score of 23.250 in the discipline, which placed them at the top of the standings.

Italy would prove their closest challengers at the halfway stage of the competition, as they achieved a score of 22.775.

The Italians were unable to catch Russia, as the favourites pulled further clear in the three balls and two ropes event.

A score of 23.050 gave the Russian team a winning total of 46.300 for the competition.

Silver was secured by Italian, who managed a final tally of 44.825.

There was delight for the home crowd as Bulgaria clinched the bronze medal on 42.050, with Ukraine ending outside the medals with 41.150.

The result ensured Italy and Bulgaria would join winners Russia on the podium, as well as at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The three nations are the first to secure group all-around qualifying spots for the Games, along with hosts Japan, who qualified automatically.

The World Championships will conclude tomorrow with the five hoops group final, followed by the three balls and two ropes event.