Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Russian crowned Miss World 2008

Kseniya Sukhinova from Russia was crowned Miss World 2008 after beating 108 other international beauties in a glittering African extravaganza held in South Africa on Saturday.

"And Miss World 2008 is Russia," announced Julia Morley, head of the Miss World committee that organises the event.

The second runner up was Gabrielle Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago and the first runner up Parvathay Omanakuttan of India.

The 21-year-old blue-eyed blonde beauty, who declared shortly before her win was announced that being nervous made her "feel stronger", takes over from Zhang Zi Lin of China to become the 58th Miss World.

"I think I can help people and I want to help people and today if I walk away with this crown I will do that," Sukhinova told judges through a translator after being asked why she should be crowned the winner.

Hailing from Nizhnevartovsk in the north west of Siberia, Sukhinova was dressed in a purple gown, with a decorative neckline and flowing skirt.

She is a student pursuing a science degree as an engineer of administration from the Tyumen Oil and Gas University.

Sukhinova becomes the second Miss Russia to go on and win the global event after Julia Kourochkina took the crown in 1992.

India's Omanakuttan wooed the crowd by greeting them in Afrikaans, and referring to heroes such as Mahatma Ghandi and South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, who was also quoted by Trinidad and Tobago's Walcott.

Contestants, aged 17 to 25, were dressed by South African and Jamaican designers for the final show after a month of galas, rehearsals and even a safari on the tip of the African continent.

Trading glamour for the bush, the beauties donned T-shirts and sneakers as they gamely tramped into the bush to see lions and giraffes, play African drums, sleep in huts and cook traditional Zulu meals.

Johannesburg sought to use the event to boost its image as a world class city, despite being known for its high crime rates, while the country also hopes to benefit from the publicity ahead of staging the football World Cup in 2010.

"I think we have been able to showcase the best of what our country has to offer," said judge Lindiwe Mahlangu, the chief executive of Johannesburg tourism.

Beauties from 109 countries were whittled down to 15 semi-finalists, with India, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Angola and South Africa among the five finalists.

South Africa's Tansey Coetzee had her home crowd on their feet shouting support as her name as a finalist was announced.

The winner of the event, broadcast live to millions of viewers in 187 countries, has to espouse "beauty with a purpose", with charity being one of the main focuses of the pageant.

"Over the years the crown that is worn by the winner is a symbol for fund-raising. Miss World herself, this year, the winner from China, she's raised over $US30 million [$45 million] in her year in office," Morley said.

"So perhaps from anything else it does a lot of good things for needy children and old people, which I think is important too."

The competition was originally scheduled for October 4 in Kiev, but was delayed in September over security concerns due to the conflict between neighbours Russia and Georgia.

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