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Working hard at Lake Krugloye - who will make the team?

Senior team members Daria Spirodonova, Tatiana Nabiyeva, Ekaterina Kramarenko, Viktoria Komova and Maria Paseka enjoy some Sunday fun in Moscow.  Picture courtesy of Viktoria Komova on Instagram

The women are at training camp at present, preparing for the upcoming, late August, Russia Cup.  The outcome of this competition will determine who is selected for October's World Championships.  There will be six team members competing in qualifications (6-5-4 format) and the usual 6-3-3 in team finals.

The faces that I can spot missing from these photographs (see below for a fuller group shot)  are Aliya Mustafina (the only lock to this autumn's team, assuming she recovers well from her surgery, and remains in good health) and Anastasia Grishina, about whom there has been an ominous silence since this spring.  As a reminder, Nastia has had an operation to her knee, as a consequence of an injury sustained on the floor in the Russian Championships.  The Munich clinic where the knee was operated had announced that she would be ready to begin training again by May, but there has been no news since from any source.   Ksenia Afanasyeva, who we all hope will be fighting fit for the Rio Olympics, is still recovering from ankle surgery and, I suspect, taking a sensible deep breath before deciding whether to enter the fray again.

Clockwise, from bottom left : Angelika Melnikova (jr), Maria Kharenkova, Lilia Akhaimova, Ekaterina Kramarenko, Alla Sosnitskaya, Viktoria Komova, Daria Mikhailova (jr), Daria Spirodonova, Maria Paseka, Anna Rodionova, Tatiana Nabiyeva

With Aliya Mustafina considered a certainty at this point in time, and Komova in contention for a place on the team, competing both bars and beam at best, all of the girls in this picture (apart from the two juniors indicated) will be in the fight for medals in Penza, and hence for selection for the Worlds team.

In Nanjing it will be almost exactly four years since the Russian team won gold in the World Championships in 2010.  There, Mustafina made her senior debut, dominating the competition and setting the scene for so many fighting performances in the years to come.

What would your line ups be for qualifications and finals?  Who if anyone do you think will be in the running for Russia Cup and World medals?  Who would be your reserve, and why?


  1. I like a team of mostly veterans and specialists, although Mustafina will be doing a lot of work in the TF.

    TF Line up
    VT: Soskitsnaya, Mustafina, Paseka (QF: 6th team member +/- Kharenkova)
    UB: Mustafina, Komova, 6th team member/Paseka (QF: Soskitsnaya, Paseka or 6th team member)
    BB: Komova, Mustafina, Kharenkova (QF: Soskitsnaya + 6th team member)
    FX: Soskitsnaya, Mustafina, 6th team member/Paseka/Kharenkova (QF: 2 athletes not in TF)

    The 6th team member is likely to be Kramarenko, then Grishina or Nabieva. Mustafina, Soskitsnaya and the 6th team member attempt to qualify for the AA.

    Komova, Kharenkova,and Soskitsnaya make the team for contributing event final worthy routines for where each was placed.

    6th spot: Ideally Grishina, if I were choosing. She has the best floor out of the remaining candidates based on previous years and this year's Russian champs. Plus with Paseka a good back up on bars, floor is probably the deciding factor. A bonus is Grishina could potentially contribute on beam to rest Mustafina some in TF, but that would be a risky choice. Realistically this spot will go to Kramarenko. She was very solid at Russian champs and originally selected for Euros. Her floor was 4th at Russian champs and her bars were 5th in qualifications. She makes the team based on math and also that the Rodionenkos continue to send her to other international competitions. Nabieva is the third choice for this spot (for me). I would love to see her back for 2010 era bar work and there is a video of her training the Nabieva floating about. Her scores at Russian champs were not as high, but she only had a month of serious training. Perhaps she can challenge Kramarenko for her spot if she develops an amazing bar routine. I'm afraid that she isn't liked by the Rodionenkos, but perhaps that has changed.

    Rodionova and Spirodonova do not really factor into this team. Unfortunately, they are not built for tumbling or vault and it's a shame that Komova has returned to steal the bars/beam spot. However, they replace Komova if she is knocked out again. I imagine a healthy Rodionova might be more favored than Spirodonova for her beam routine, but if it's just bars, then Spirodonova gets to go.

    Event Finals
    VT: I imagine Soskitsnaya and Paseka will have two vaults. It would be absurd, but enjoyable for me if Mustafina and Nabieva are on the team, and 4/5 Russian vaulters in qualifications attempt to make the final. Paseka is probably the favorite here, I have seen videos of her tossing and Amanar as well as a rudi. If she has those by Nanning, she'd be a strong contender against the USA vaulters, Steingruber, and Hong Un-Jong.
    UB: Mustafina and Komova would qualify ahead of anyone else
    BB: Mustafina, Komova and Kharenkova attempt to qualify.
    FX: Mustafina has a shot at qualifying, less likely is Soskitsnaya who has a good floor

    1. Yikes... sorry for the essay. I have been adding up D scores for potential world teams (I know difficulty isn't everything), but this is how things currently rank.

      USA 76.9
      China 75.3
      Russia 74.0
      GB 72.3
      Canada 71.1
      Romania 70.4
      Australia 69.4

      By difficulty, Russia looks pretty good for a medal - the question is will the veterans be back to competitive levels and will they compete without major errors (which they did not do at 2010-2012 world/olympic TF).

    2. May I know which 6 gymnasts you count for team China that makes 75.3? thx...and also for Russia

    3. Sure, Yao, Shang, Huang, Tan J, Chen and Bai. For Russia, Mustafina, Soskitsnaya, Kharenkova, Komova, Paseka, Spirodonova. However, I would take someone in else instead of Spirodonova if they have a good a floor. It's less important if Kharenkova improves her floor total.

    4. Nooo, don't say that it's a shame that Vika is back--that's a great thing to me. I want to see some gold for her, after so many delays and so much disappointment. I know that you're just pointing out that she might be spoiling a chance for some deserving younger gymnasts, but I still can't wait to see her (hopefully) at World's. As to the rest of your post, I agree pretty much completely, but if Aliya does compete in every team final event, fatigue may be an issue...although she did have a nice break between this competition and the long run where she was carrying the team a bit even with an injured ankle. I remember her wincing as she vaulted at Euro's, but hopefully that problem's solved.

      As to the D scores you so usefully compiled, a 3 point gap between USA and Russia may simply be too much to overcome, so it'll likely be a battle for second between Russia and China. Britain may break onto the scene though, particularly after their surprisingly strong (to me at least) performance at Euro's. Anyways, cheers!

  2. I would like to see Maria and Kharenkova Alyia on beam. Do not know who to choose third member. On the floor, I prefer Mustafina, Sostiniskaya and Mary Karenkova. In bars: Mustafina, Darya Spiridinova. The vault Sostiniskaya, Mustafina. As I said before, much like the team that went to the Euros, except Rodionova. Maybe it's time to enter the place of Komova Rodionova. Of course, the newcomers have much to mature, cleaning routines, but I like the face of this new team. I wish I could count Nastia Grishina ...

  3. By the way, the city that is hosting the Worlds this year is Nanning, not Nanjing.

  4. It would be great to see Daria Spirodonova on bars, with Komova and Aliya. China's bars are too strong to beat, even much more stronger than Russia....

  5. Mustafina, Komova, Paseka, Sosnitskaya, Kharenkova, Spiridonova

    I start with vault and floor because half of their members are strong on bars and beam.
    Aliya is obvious, and Sosnitskaya proved herself at Euros and can bring in solid scores on VT and FX. Paseka could round out the vault rotation and potentially floor depending on her shape. For bar/beam, Komova is a good choice, and Kharenkova should be sent for her high BB score that could medal in EF. This leaves one bar spot, and next in line is Spiridonova. I question Grishina's readiness and the Rodionenkos don't like her. Kramarenko is decent, but can't contribute a lot anywhere.

    VT Sosnitskaya Mustafina Paseka
    UB Spiridonova Mustafina Komova
    BB Komova Mustafina Kharenkova
    FX Paseka/Kharenkova Sosnitskaya Mustafina

  6. I think it is very important to think of the conditions of the other teams. The US has some amazing talent, but they are currently lacking on vault and floor as much, if not worse, than Russia. Shockingly, the US has many Bar/Beamers, Kocian, Gowey, Baumann, Lockear, Ross, but so far, only Biles has shown Worlds level on vault and floor. With Maroney out, Skinner seems to have a solid chance at a spot, except that she bombed floor this past weekend and she is sure to follow in Mattie Larsons footsteps. Dowell is injured, Priessman just fractured her foot/leg, and unless Raisman or someone magical comes from the wings, the US is going to have to use a very low floor score without being able to make up for it on bars and beam like Russia can. I think this year will be very interesting, the US definitely has the best individual gymnast, but as a team, their puzzle is missing some crucial pieces. I do not think Russia's situation is as drastic as people are making it out to be, Worlds can be a whole different team than Euros with Rodionova, Paseka, Kramarenko, Mustafina, and Komova, being in much better shape! I am not worried, Russia will surely be on the podium, silver likely in my personal opinion.

  7. That is an interesting analysis Rien, but you are clearly still thinking that US will come out on top. I like a Russian team with Mustafina, Kharenkova, Komova, Sosnitskaya, Spirodonova and either Paseka or Nabiyeva but I think their main competition will be a China, Romania and perhaps GB if their scores and consistency hold out at world level (I don't think they will). Romania have just lost Bulimar, but they have a record of achieving a lot with very little. China - well I just don't know. The situation could well be better than we imagine but Russia can barely scrabble five floor workers and vaulters together; given that the high scores now tend to come on vault and bars and high scores are only achievable on floor with immense difficulty, their strengths don't really outweigh their weaknesses.
    However, all teams have to face transition and bring through new talent. Now is the right time to do so. Spirodonova and Sosnitskaya might not be world individual medal winners, but they are decent team workers. So things could well be better than we expect at the present moment.


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