Monday, 24 September 2012

Alexander Alexandrov dismissed as WAG Head Russian coach

Alexander Alexandrov with Aliya Mustafina at the London Olympics.  Courtesy of the RGF.
UPDATE: Evgeny Grebenkin now appointed as WAG Head Coach.  Read about it here.

UPDATE: An interview with Alexandrov here suggests the reasons for his dismissal were personal and led by Andrei Rodionenko.  Alexandrov says his coaching contract with Mustafina lasts until 30 December, but after that he does not know what he will do.

Sports Express today confirmed the news that Russian WAG team coach Alexander Alexandrov has been fired from his job as WAG head coach.  The decision was made by a vote of the board of the Russian Gymnastics Federation, including some of the coaches of gymnasts who performed poorly in London, reports Elena Vaytsehovskaya.

Sources close to the Russian team suggest that Alexandrov will continue as personal coach to 2010 World Champion and 2012 Uneven Bars Olympic Champion Aliya Mustafina though this has yet to be officially confirmed and (updated 18.45) Alexandrov has now suggested it is doubtful he will continue beyond the end of December (see note below).  We still await an announcement of who will take over from the talented Alexandrov as head coach of the Russian WAG team.

60 year old Alexandrov rose to prominence in 1983 as coach to the 'Mozart' World Champion of gymnastics, Dmitri Bilozerchev, who at 16 was the youngest ever male World Champion of the time.  He has nursed talented gymnasts through two remarkable recoveries during his career: that of Bilozerchev from his life-threatening car crash in 1985 to World Champion in 1987; and the rehabilitation of ambitious Aliya Mustafina at the London Olympics this year following a serious knee injury in spring 2011.

Taking over from Andrei Rodionenko as head coach of the Soviet women's team in 1988, Alexandrov orchestrated one of the greatest women's team performances ever seen at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1989, when the Soviets won the team title and took all three medals in the all around competition.  All six gymnasts performed in inimitable style, setting a standard of choreographic and tumbling excellence and originality that has rarely been reached since.

Alexandrov was to attribute his success in Stuttgart to his ability to get the coaches to work together as a team.  Ironically, the Russian team's failure to take gold in London 2012 seems to stem from a singular lack of team work amongst the coaches.  At a post Olympic press conference, Alexandrov was viciously attacked by Sergei Zelikson, coach to gymnast Anastasia Grishina who noteably failed to deliver her promise at the Olympic Games.  Central to Zelikson's argument was Alexandrov's position as personal coach to Aliya Mustafina: a team coach could not have a personal favourite, he said.  Alexandrov argued to the contrary, pointing to national team coach for rhythmic gymnastics, Irina Viner, who coaches four or five individuals in addition to her team responsibilities.  But it was all in vain, and today Alexandrov's dismissal was finally announced.

Alexandrov travelled to Mallorca with the national women's team earlier this month for their annual active holiday there, but noteable by her absence was young Anastasia Grishina who travelled privately abroad with her mother, Galina.  Grishina thus seems to have become a cypher for disunity in the Russian team.  The Russian Gymnastics Federation has yet to announce who will take over the mantle of Alexandrov.  But a key role he or she must fulfill will be to unite the coaches and integrate a team that most likely will include the vibrant talents of both Mustafina and Grishina.

Read an interview with Alexander Alexandrov here.
Read the proceedings of the post Olympic press conference, Taking Stock of the Olympics, here.
Read my commentary on the Russian problems at London here.


  1. Well that really sucks, I am disappointed but you know what they got more medals while he has been in charge and he can be proud of that. I can't believe they dismissed him. Who exactly are they going to choose? None of the other coaches there are head coach material.

    I sure as heck don't want to see Valentina as the head coach and Grishina's coach doesn't really have any use except to moan (sorry I don't like him).

    I don't know who they will choose, but it will be hard to unite the coaches because they all have their own agendas and instead of being happy for a fellow coach or even the team, they express jealousy.

    So Grishina went abroad with her mom...hmm whatever. Hopefully it is just some holiday or something. She has talent but she needs help psychologically in terms of not being afraid and performing in big competitions. She also seems to be able to do what she wants, which needs to stop.

    I am really disappointed that he isn't head coach anymore, but I will be happy if he does stay as Mustafina's personal coach.

    Elizabeth - how about this, every coach just have their own student and no head coach, kinda like figure skating? :) That way they can only bitch and moan at themselves, lol.

  2. Re: update. Damn only until December 30th? can he renew it, or who renews that?

    His dismissal had to be personal, they don't exactly have any other reason for it. Isn't Rodioneko on the chopping block as well? because his contract is up soon isn't it?

    If he can't stay as head coach I would love him to stay as personal coach for Aliya but if he can't do that, I wonder what they both will do. I know Aliya wants to continue through to 2016 but I don't know if she can handle that mess of a team of coaches without Alexandrov.

    Hopefully there will be more news in the coming days. Thanks for the update.

  3. I think you are beeing too harsh on Grishina. We don't know what happened. She was ready for the Europeans. Aleksandrov and Mustafina blamed her for refusing to compete on beam, but Grishina has not explained what went wrong.

    And then, what about Elfimov's position? He might become the team's headcoach.
    Ostapenko went back to Russia but didn't stay. Was it the Rodionenkos'fault?

    It's a mess and it won't do any good to Russian gymnastics.

    1. Neither Aliya nor Aleksandrov blamed Grishina for anything. Aliya said she was only to do bars and vault but Grishina didn't want to do the beam, so she did it, and Alexandrov explained that Grishina asked them not do make her do beam. He said she was fearful of letting the team down. They never once blamed her for anything.

      You can see she was definitely fearful and not ready based on her floor performance in the finals. That is her personal coach's fault.

  4. Rodionenko, Good luck for the next Gymnastics Championships without Alexander Alexandrov.
    nice way to treat the coach that brought Russian Gymnastic to its former glory. If anything Grishina Coach should be the one being penalized, we all saw how his method work at the Olympics, there's no denying that Nastia was the weakest link on team, she didn't contribute in anything for it. And if she felt like a more or less outsider, I don't know how this is going to do to the relationship among the girls, they all seem to really like and respect Alexarder.
    And I'm afraid that come December, if Alexandrov doesn't renew is contract with Aliya, I don't know if she will continue at all. I feel really sorry for her, it must be painful for her to know that she's the reason/excuse they are dismissing her coach.

  5. Way to put personal petty bullshit above everything else, Russia! I cannot believe this. Poor Aliya.

  6. The USA Head Coach (at all major events) is also a personal coach and they seem to have no such problems!

    Also when Russia won in 2010 they seemed to have no problem with Alexandrov doing both jobs!

  7. Well, Aliya updated her VK status earlier:

    first: "shame, lots of shame"

    later: "empty. without thoughts or emotions. nothing".

    I hope this doesn't lead to even worse news, but that definitely doesn't look good. So sad for her. [Please, don't leave her, Alexandrov!]