LONDON (AP) — Time for those swirling ribbons and shiny balls, the nose clips and sparkly caps. The Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte show is long over. So is all-around gymnastics.
Two of the Olympics’ quirkier, female-only sports — rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming — are on Friday’s program as the London Games head into the closing weekend. Add the high-flying, acrobatic sport of BMX cycling into the mix and fans will be treated to an eclectic combination of grace and guts.
Also Friday, LeBron James — fresh off his triple-double in a quarterfinal win against Australia — leads the U.S. basketball team into the semifinals against Argentina. The Americans routed the Argentines by 29 points in the preliminary-round finale.
And at Olympic Stadium, double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa runs for an Olympic medal when he and his teammates compete in the 4x400-meter relay at Olympic Stadium.
In rhythmic gymnastics, American Julie Zetlin maneuvered through a hoop during part of her performance in qualifying and balanced a shiny ball on her hand during another. She sported a sequined black costume, complete with slicked-back hair, shimmery eye makeup and bright pink-red lipstick.
Her sport is described as a combination of ballet, gymnastics, theatrical dance, and apparatus manipulation. And body manipulation, considering how these women might pull one foot over their head or do the splits while upside down and balancing on their chests. That’s just what defending Olympic all-around champion Evgeniya Kanaeva of Russia did Thursday.
‘‘It’s awesome. It really does feel like a show,’’ Zetlin said. ‘‘It feels glitzy and glamorous, and I love that about our sport.’’
Synchronized swimming is much the same with music and theatrics, just performed in the pool and minus the props. The synchro swimmers also must be able to hold their breath for a long time while upside down under water.
Both sports require remarkable strength, stamina and flexibility — not to mention cardiovascular conditioning.
The Russians rule in both, and the sports are hugely popular in Eastern Europe.
Although these are niche sports, they are still well supported, though perhaps not quite to the level of the more traditional Olympic events that feature athletes such as Phelps, Lochte, U.S. all-around gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas or even Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
Caroline Weber of Austria competed in rhythmic gymnastics Thursday in a leotard version of a traditional Austrian dress, performing to what would best be described as techno yodeling music. And it was a nearly packed house.
Individual qualifying continues Friday with the ribbon and clubs, with the top 10 women advancing to Saturday’s all-around final. Rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming each joined the Olympic program at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
In the pool, there are team and duet events. Russia is the three-time defending Olympic champion in the team competition and led after Thursday’s technical routine, in which swimmers perform a series of movements in a set order. The other portion of the competition is called free — and just about anything goes, allowing the swimmers to be creative in their choreography.
Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, showed up at the Aquatics Centre to check it out. The Russians performed to ‘‘Russian Dance’’ by Denis Garnizov.
Russia, a seven-time world champion in the team synchro event, is chasing a fourth straight Olympic gold in the duet and team events.
Points from Friday’s free routines will be totaled with Thursday results to determine the medalists.
On Thursday, the Russians wore red swimsuits decorated in gold.
‘‘We aim to make the costumes as impressive as possible,’’ Elvira Khasyanova said, ‘‘and to unite the music, the choreography and the costumes.’’
NBC Friday Olympic prime time schedule:
8 p.m.-midnight (EDT/PDT)
Track and field: gold medal finals in men’s 4x400m relay, men’s pole vault, women’s 4x100m relay, women’s 1500m. Men’s diving: 15-meter platform qualifying round. Cycling: BMX gold medal finals.
AP National Writer Nancy Armour and AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this story.