|Alexander Alexandrov with Aliya Mustafina at the London Olympics. Courtesy of the RGF.|
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.