Not to steal any of Clara’s thunder from her previous post about Dementyeva being a possible team leader, but I wanted to take the topic of Mustafina’s demise a little further, and analyze exactly who is left. It’s amazing how much the makeup of a team changes when their best athlete is on a hiatus.
The title of this blog post seems somewhat more fitting for a funeral than a gymnastics blog, but in the wake of Mustafina’s ACL injury – and subsequently missing Worlds – the # of able-bodied Russian gymnasts does resemble that of a graveyard.
Quite a few people have mentioned (and rather unsympathetically may I add) that “Mustafina isn’t everything.” Guess what? She is, when it comes to Russian gymnastics right now. Russia has relied on her so heavily; without her, Russia would have undoubtedly walked away from Rotterdam with a medal of a less-important color, or no team medal at all. As Mr. Dagget said during the broadcast, “she is their rock.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The wind has been taken out of my sales given Aliya’s diagnosis and projected rehabilitation period. On one hand, I can’t say that I’m completely surprised, as injuries aren’t always preventable; and she’s been competing at quite a fervid pace since her senior debut, and at a higher – and potentially more dangerous – level than her peers. An injury was bound to happen before London, but I was predicting something more along the lines of a sprained ankle, broken hairclip, or mascara malfunction.
While Aliya has worked steadily on upping her difficulty since Rotterdam, the majority of her World Champion teammates have digressed, taken some form of sabbatical, are nursing injuries, have or vanished altogether.
Worlds are still 6 months away, so it’s possible that the Russian Federation will be able to whip up a top-tier team without Aliya. While they’re gaining a Komova, they’re losing a Mustafina, and the rest of the world is catching up with them. What Mustafina has that the rest of her teammates lack is leadership – well, that along with the highest d-scores and consistency. Aliya had no problem posting a high 15 on bars after both Dementyeva and Nabieva headcased their way through bars in Rotterdam team finals. She’s almost always at Nabieva’s side, but that’s to be expected, and who can forget her coaching Afanasyeva before her disastrous floor routine in Rotterdam event finals, and consoling her after?
She plays mother hen even to her older and more experienced teammates, and I honestly can’t see anyone taking her place in that regard. The leadership role is almost as important (to me at least) as bringing in the big scores.
So who is left?
Talk about pressure and hype? Ya’ll think it was bad before, but now it’s doubled (literally) in size. Not only should (assuming she’s healthy) Vika win the Wolrd All-Around crown, but she’s also essentially taking Aliya’s place; which means posting the highest scores and making up for whatever fuck-ups her teammates make. And don’t forget that she should qualify for all 4-event finals too. Whew! My fear is that Komova follows the same path as Mustafina, and relied upon to heavily. The Russians have the tendency to burn out their star player.
I’m being a touch (ok, a lot) dramatic, but this isn’t all that far from reality. We all know that Viktoria is dealing with an ankle injury that may or may not require surgery. She wasn’t quite herself earlier this year in Penza, but she certainly wasn’t at 100%. I’m going to wait until she competes an entire meet as a senior (without running past the vault table) to judge.
People seem to get really hung up on the puberty issue when it comes to Komova; as if she’s the only gymnast in the world that may eventually have a period and grow something that may remotely resemble a bust. Nabieva and Mustafina grew up and out considerably in between 2008 and 2010, and seemed to adjust just fine. And unlike those two, Viktoria actually has good basics to fall back on. No one seems to mention Dementyeva’s impeding puberty, and she’s only a month older than Komova. And how much of a detriment will it be for Russia’s best juniors, Grishina and Sidorova? Why is it only an issue for Komova?
Personally, I think a few inches would only add to Komova’s already fabulous lines, and a good 10 pounds wouldn’t hurt either; poor thing needs some cushion. In fact, I hope she’s going through puberty as I type this. At her current weight, it looks like a limb could snap like a twig. I suggest some happy meals. Or a meat pie with a side of ranch-slathered cheesy sticks.
I expected good results from Anna at Europeans, but two golds? Damn girl!
One (the All-Around), was by default, but we’re happy for her anyway.
What was most impressive to me wasn’t the medals, but her new found consistency. A few landing blips on floor during prelims and event finals, but she more or less hit every time she competed. This is what Russia needs more of : consistent athletes.
Though she’ll surely sit out vault at Worlds, she can contribute decent scores on bars and floor, and a biggie on beam. Her event final routine from Berlin was the best I’d ever seen her do it – and under pressure.
Alexandrov himself has referred to her as “the team leader” in Mustafina’s absence, but I don’t know if I see that. Though she’s proven that she can finally hit under pressure, she doesn’t quite have an authoritative personality. Aloof, kind, shy, yes. Authoritative, no. But hopefully her aggressive performances in Berlin will allow her teammates to take her more seriously. Or at least include her in conversation. Not that I condone (nor condemn) outright bossiness, she could afford at least an iota of inflated ego.
Speaking of inflated egos, everyone’s favorite bad girl will continue to make major teams granted she remains capable on vault and bars; though she’s proven on a couple of occasions that she can bomb in a clutch situation.
My prediction with Nabieva is that they use her in major meets until a) Mustafina is back to full strength, and b) Grishina and Sidorova turn senior. Then they’ll drop her like a hot Russian potato, just in time for London. Conniving, isn’t it?
The thing that Nabieva processes that Dementyeva lacks is attitude. She doesn’t look like the kind of bitch you’d want to run into a dark alley or disagree with. She’s going to have to find some new coattails to ride while Aliya is recouping. But she’ll be at Worlds in all her crazy/face-making/back-talking glory, trust me.
Personally, I would find it difficult to be bossed around by someone who’s a) gymnastics isn’t all that good and b) acts like a complete loon in public (see video below) :
ANNA MYZDRIKOVA & EKATERINA KURBATOVA
These were the two I was speaking of when I mentioned digression. Myzdrikova only made the Rotterdam training squad, and hasn’t been competing much (or competing well) since. It’s hard being essentially a 2-eventer (I can’t take her making 2009 Euros beam finals seriously), let alone being sub-par on both.
In Rotterdam, Kurbatova served as more of a cheerleader than a major player, only vaulting in team finals. I’ve always preferred her bars to Dementyeva’s; I was quite shocked when they didn’t use her in team finals. Again, it’s hard being a 2-eventer when your 2 events are the same as your teammate (Nabieva) who has higher scoring potential. At this point, I think Kurbs & Nabs both need to get down to some serious work on all 4 events. Just in case.
Even Criss Angel would be impressed by the disappearing act these two have done.
I find it laughable every time someone suggests that Semenova will make future teams. It seems about as likely as Kate Moss never sniffing up another line of rock.
She was a shell of her former self in Rotterdam, and took one of the nastier crashes in prelims on her last tumbling pass :
Child : “Mama, what’s for dinner?”
Mom : “Cracked skull.”
Child : “Mmm, my favorite!”
I attribute much of her demise to injury – both of the Ksenia’s have had back problems (slung double layouts and generally poor tumbling technique doesn’t remedy this), and Semenova has been reporting wrist problems for as long as I can remember.
I guess they could always use her for a half-assed beam routine (which is still better than Nabieva’s or Kurbatova’s) if necessary.
It’s my opinion that Afanasyeva was actually the best gymnast in the world in 2009 – a back injury kept her out of Worlds, and those voices that dance in her head never let her prove it. She too was reported as having a lingering injury (knee) in Rotterdam, and she’s been out of commission since.
In theory, I find Afanasyeva the more useful Ksenia by far. The question that begs with Afanasyeva is has she exhausted all of her chances? It must be incredibly frustrating to coach a gymnast that lands on her back more than a hooker in Van Nuys.
Or are the Ksenia’s simply past their prime(s)?
I kind of didn’t want to like her when she first surfaced as a senior at Jesolo. She looked like shit. I was, however, impressed with her bronze medal winning floor routine in Berlin. It’s quite lovely, really :
Like Dementyeva, she’s a weak vaulter. Unlike Dementyeva, she’s extremely scrappy on bars and beam, but I see some potential. She has 6 months to prove her case.
Like Belo., she’s a new senior.
For someone without a very powerful run, this is quite a powerful vault :
According to this article, Russian judge, Lyudmila Korolenko, claims that Paseka is capable of a triple twisting Yurchenko. Needless to say, I believe she’s injured. Either way, that vault definitely looks upgradeable to me – to an Amanar at least. She’s also a very powerful tumbler – a vaulter and a tumbler. She’s my wildcard for the 2011 team.
I won’t include Pavlova on the list, as she’s rumored to be pulling an Elizarova on us.
Anyway we slice it, Russia is in a precarious situation, but they have time to whip these girls into shape.
Speaking of slices, Aliya’s surgery went well.
Aliya said, “”I ache a little, but not too much, yesterday was worse,” Mustafina told the reporter. “And I have strong pain killers. Thanks to the Internet I’ve been communicating with friends and time flies quickly, so there’s less focus on the pain. Tanya Nabieva called me here today on Skype, and I talked a lot with the other girls.”
And my favorite part :
The 16-year-old Mustafina, laid up in bed, refused to have her photo taken.
“That’s the nature of our champion,” Rodionenko said. “She wants to be the best not only in sports but in everything. Including photos.”
Oh, Aliya le Diva.
Here’s my very early Russian Worlds team : Komova, Nabieva, Dementyeva, Afanasyeva, Kurbatova, Paseka.
Prelims ( )’s sits out, 3 up 3 count in bold.
VT : (Dementyeva), Afanasyeva, Kurbatova, Paseka, Nabieva, Komova
UB : (Paseka), Afanasyeva, Dementyeva, Kurbatova, Nabieva, Komova
BB : (Paseka), Kurbatova, Nabieva, Afanasyeva, Komova, Dementyeva
FX : (Nabieva/Kurbatova), Nabieva/Kurbatova, Paseka, Dementyeva, Komova, Afanasyeva