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Does Russia need Mustafina in Glasgow? Vaitsekhovskaya adds her voice

'Should Mustafina compete in Glasgow, considering her fragile state of health? - aren't the Olympics more important?' are the key themes of this brief news piece by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya, a top sports journalist who has interviewed Alexandrov, Arkayev, Starkin, Mustafina and Rodionenko in the last five years since Aliya won the World Championships.

Elena stresses that this year nothing unusual has happened.  Aliya has worked hard with her new coach Sergei Starkin.  She did a 'great job', demonstrating her work at the European Games in Baku where she won the all around, bars and team events as well as silver in the floor exercise.

But, says Vaitsekhovskaya, more important than the medals was the fact that Aliya showed a new technical level, began work on upgrades for the Rio Olympics.  Just competing in one event - the Baku games - could be enough for a veteran athlete of Mustafina's experience.  The body ages in both time - and injuries.  Athletes always respond in the same way - exhaustion sets in, old injuries worsen, and the psychological effect of all of this makes things worse.  So it's natural that doubts arise in athletes' minds at these times.  

Vaitsekhovskaya continues to the effect that these are difficult times when it is important not to give up, but also not to continue at all costs to try to overcome the 'inner apathy'.  Accept the fact that the body's reaction - if unpleasant - is natural and, most importantly, temporary.  

This is the reason, says Vaitsekhovskaya, that most athletes are only able to peak once a year.  The European Games may have been a minor event, but for Aliya, they were a big thing in that she set herself a goal to show that she had returned to her former level - and she did this brilliantly.  

This leads to the question - does the Russian team have to include Aliya in its team for Glasgow?  Well of course the absence of the leader will affect the overall result, but the Russian team only needs to qualify for the Olympics and with Afanasyeva and Komova coming back to their best form, they should at least manage that.  We all know that Aliya has strong fighting capabilities and Olympic goals are worthy of some sacrifices.  The main thing is - not to change the goals for Rio.

Aliya said - 

'I'm going to continue to practice and prepare for competitions.  I will attend camp at Round Lake, and try to restore my form and overcome my back problems.  Unfortunately, this injury has not responded very well to treatment. Improvements occur only after a period of complete rest from training.  But this does not mean that I'm going to despair. As a reserve I may be able to help the team in Glasgow.'

RRG is of the opinion that Aliya should only compete in Glasgow if she really wants to, and if her health is good.  It is exhausting just travelling to overseas destinations, adjusting to time differences and so on, and the pressure of big competition makes it difficult to take cool decisions.  What if another gymnast were to be injured during the competition, for example?  Aliya would feel it her duty to step in and give her all - and it is clear that her all now has its limitations.  The Queen is only human.

I'll reiterate Elena's point that the Rio Olympics are far more important than short term goals in Glasgow.  What do the Rodionenkos think of this?  Well Valentina Rodionenko has gone public, offering Aliya whatever treatments she wants - if the clinic in Germany hasn't worked, could another therapist do better?  But it is clear that rest is the only thing that Aliya feels works properly, and also that Valentina's words in this respect are rather unhelpful.   Only Aliya knows how her back feels.  

A coach shouldn't use media announcements to pressurise an athlete to train when she isn't ready.   You can spray anaesthetic on an aching foot to get through a floor routine, but that doesn't make the injury better - doesn't Valentina know that?  Besides, Aliya has to get through weeks of heavy training before Glasgow.  She shouldn't have to go through physical and mental pain at this stage of her career, just to make sure that the Russian head coaches achieve silver rather than bronze or fourth position in a competition that really matters very little.

We fans must support Aliya as best we can.

Vaitsekhovskaya's original article -


  1. Thank you for sharing this; I totally agree. With Aliya, Russia will be silver at best and without her probably 4th or 5th in the worst case scenario. Despite their problems on floor, Russia is still great on bars and beside the US, is the only country with a good Amanar in vault (Paseka), so they will beat Romania on both vault and bars by a lot. China will be the only other country that can match Russia on bars; both China and Romania will do better on beam. It will come down to floor and who hits; Romania has the advantage on floor. The selfish part of me would love to see Aliya compete, but I hope she does what is best for her and her chances for the Olympics. It sounds like resting her back is what she needs, so I hope she does.


  2. I kinda agree too that if you have to pick and choose your battle, then pick next year. It does suck to not have some feeling of guaranteed podium in TF, but maybe it will drive the others to work harder: swim or sink.... Aside from the given fact that without Aliya there's no chance for AA podium, I think this team can still have decent shots for medals on all 4 events. If Aliya is not completely prepared and healthy, she will have a hard time also beating Larisa and might even aggreviate her injury. Sometimes you might just have to swallow hard and pick your fight and lose a battle to win the long war!

  3. I agree, we must support her and I do. I don't think she should go if her back isn't better. She shouldn't push herself. Rio is the main goal and I think it would be her last competition.

    If the team can't qualify for Rio without her then things would be too hopefulness. Everyone else needs to step up. Komova's form has been really bad right now, so hopefully she can pick it up.

  4. We don't know what has happened between Baku and now. We don't know if she was able to put up with Starkin's training load.

  5. oh please may all other Russian gymnasts train properly and push themselves to the maximum so that Aliya won't have to worry about them and could take a good rest for the sake of peaking in Rio. It is really painful to see Aliya carrying the team on her back all these years with her injuries. I would really wanna smash the other Russians if they are not good enough in the head coach's standard that they need Aliya on the team

  6. Even without Mustafina Russia will qualify for Rio with any problems, so her presence in Glasgow is dispensable for the main purpose. If she wants to compete, the main point is if her back problems can get worse with training charge. In my opinion Aliya should stay at home and take care of her health. Russia can live without her this year, not in the next one.

  7. It's frustrating to see how little faith people have in the non Mustafina Russians. Saying they are going to place 4th or 5th? Really... Mustafina would not offer the highest score on any event and the Russian team is capable of covering her events with scores within tenths, and could even score significantly higher ie if Kharenkova nails beam. Sedas DTY comes within tenths of Mustafina, Paseka on bars the same. Beam won't suffer a great hit and Kharenkova is even capable of scoring well above Mustafina. Floor, unless Mustafina upgraded and polished after Baku which seems unlikely since she has not been training, Paseka or Seda can also score within tenths. I have great confidence in all the Russians girls and wish everyone else would too. The only thing they'd be losing is an almost assured AA medal. Their team podium ranking will not change, Romania is extremely weak and China does not have the vaults to make up for their poor floor like Russia does. I just don't see why everyone is so cynical about all the other Russian girls.

    1. I agree with everything u said except for China having weak vt/fx. Everyone on their worlds team, except Shang, has a DTY. Then there's Tan's amanar (it's inconsistent but they may let her do it at least in quals since she's been training it for a year) and Wang of course has an awesome and consistent rudi. They're fx is not weak either. Do u know shang has a 6.6 on fx right now? Lol yea she's been putting it together slowly over the year with 6.3 at nationals to 6.6 at the most recent internal tests. If she does all her acro connections after her tumbling she'll have a 6.7! So far as I know, she only fell once this year at Sao Paulo but otherwise she's gotten better on floor. Mao Yi has 6.2 and Wang Yan has 6.3 but just verified a higher d-score at an internal test i heard. China is still vulnerable to poor execution and falls but with higher d-scores it won't be so fatal.Besides, Russia's vulnerable to those as well, so I think China can beat them again if they minimize errors. They have higher combined difficulty on 3/4 apparatus and only lose to Russia on vault by one tenth (that's if it goes:RUS-6.3,6.3, 5.8 CHN:6.3, 6.2, 5.8). [Tan might not do an amanar but Afan might forgo it as well]. They are very well matched, with an edge to China because of their crazy UB options.

    2. I would love to see Russia win a medal without Mustafina, but the reason for the lack of faith is how poorly they did at the Russian Cup. How can one have faith when the team (except for Spidi and Paseka) looked better earlier in the year? Yes, Seda can score big on floor, but when was the last time she did? She either fell or had a huge step out on floor at the Russian Cup. Afan was better on floor earlier in the year too and her vaults looked better earlier too. Then there is Komova who fell on bars and beam. Yes, they have a lot of potential, the problem is they fall too much. I would rather be realistic and be happily surprised when they hit than not be disappointed if they fall on every event.


    3. I agree with you about the difficulty but the Chinese E scores, particularly on floor, are consistently low. They have the slim flighty body type which allows them to excel on bars and beam, but they seriously lack amplitude and power on vault and floor. Yes Wang Yan will be a huge asset this year but Chunsong has never scored well on floor despite her difficulty. And same on vault. Yes they can near equal the difficulty, but their execution does not compare in my opinion. Further more, I don't think all those girls will be on the team. I see Chunsong, Wang Yan, Huidan, Chen Siyi, on the team with Bai Yawen and Tan Jiaxin most likely to round out the team which would mean they wouldn't have all the difficulty that you mentioned. But I am not that familiar with the inner working of the Chinese selection process, what are your team thoughts?

    4. Sasha replied -

      The World team has been announced for China: Tan Jiaxin, Shang Chunsong, Huang Huidan, Fan Yilin, Mao Yi, Wang Yan. Alt. Chen Siyi

      My speculative lineup, in no particular rotation order:
      VT: Wang, Tan, Mao (6.2,6.3,5.8)
      UB: Huang, Fan, Shang (7.0+,6.8, 6.7)
      BB: Shang, Wang, Huidan(?) (6.8, 6.5, 6.0)
      FX: Mao, Shang, Wang (i just learned mao is trying a gomez and a new connection for a 6.4 but generally her d-score is a 6.2, 6.7, 6.3)

      AA: Shang, Wang (unless Mao beats Wang in quals which shes done before)

      A couple of things to keep in mind: when the chinese girls hit floor, they'll score in the 14's as they have all done this year (with tight chinese scoring). Huang is inconsistent on beam and a huge risk, Chen would've made a great AA finalists but alas has no speciality event, Bai didn't hit a single beam routine this year and her other three events are weak hence she was kept home, Mao Yi is the chinese coaches FAVORITE gymnast (like Vika for the Rod's) but her fx is overambitious and she CANNOT handle a 6.4 routine. Her triple is far to scary to turn into a gomez and her tumbling is already capable of making her fall or step oob without the addition of connecting more skills, so she is huge risk as well.

    5. To say one last thing about China: apparently they gave the FIG a nominative list that differs from the official list of girls they named to the World's training team so, like Russia, let's just see who's alive by Glasgow and that'll be the team :)

    6. Thanks for all the great info! I seriously worry about that team though, not one of them is known for their consistency. Side note, Bai Yawen hit a beautiful set during AA at nationals a few months back and I do think she'd be an asset but oh well. Vault seems fairly solid besides their low E scores and low landings, bars could be amazing or a horrendous mess, both Chunsong and Huidan have had major issues on bars this year, luckily their D scored are so high that a fall wouldn't mean death. Hopefully theyll learn from last years mistake and put Jiaxin on bars instead of Chunsong. Beam, I would not rely on Chunsong but what other choice do they have, and floor is good. Seems like a solid team, but horribly inconsistent and I still think Russia will have no problem winning silver even without Musty.

    7. I see China has Xiaofang Zhou instead of Huang Huidan. Interesting.

    8. hey QE or Sasha, how may I find the videos of Chinese's recent internal test? or where did you find all the information about their D score you mentioned above? I am interested in knowing them!
      I can read chinese but i cannot find those information

  8. If the rest of the Russian team step up and hit their routines there is no reason that Russia should not medal at Worlds. The team has pretty good depth this year with many potential medallists if they hit their routines. The problem is that Mustafina has been a sort of "get out of jail free card" for the Russians in recent years where she has been forced to compensate for her team's meltdowns at crucial moments. Th main weakness seems to be AA and floor and even here there are gymnasts with potential. Mustafina should stay home and heal and give herself the best chance of competing in Rio.

  9. Today A Rodionenko told the russian team at Glasgow worlds and Aliya Mustafina is going to WC2015, but tbh i think she be 7 member of the team :-)

    1. Thank you.
      This Tass announcement closes the loop of media that developed following the Rodionenkos' first announcements of Aliya's participation in training for Worlds,, and Aliya's parallel answers to the press. It doesn't really add anything new, but confirms the Russian team's official news - Aliya will be in Glasgow as reserve.

      Vaitsekhovskaya's piece, summarised here, responds to these stories in a critical way.

      If you missed the earlier pieces, you can read them here -

      The Rodionenkos announce that Aliya will train for Glasgow -
      Aliya's response to the Rodionenkos' announcement -

    2. I have a feeling that Aliya will be competing in Glasgow. Secretly, I hope that I'm wrong because she should take care of her health right now. Selfishly, I am treasuring her every competition because she can't compete at this level for much longer. She has struggled too much with injuries to compete much after Rio.

    3. It's quite weird - no reaction from Starkin. After all, he's Mustafina's personal coach.
      I think they are being harsh on Shelgunova.

    4. The personal coaches generally do not comment on national team selections so I am not surprised that Starkin has maintained a silence. He probably doesn't get to talk to the press unless they ring him for comment anyway.
      I think it is important to remember that what may be fascinating to us as fans is not exactly mundane, but everyday to the gymnasts and coaches. While it;s clear that there has been some kind of discussion, or even disagreement, here, it has hardly been on the scale of a news story such as Arsene Wenger resigning from Arsenal, and much of the controversy is generated by the gymternet itself.
      Why do you say that they have been hard on Shelgunova? She didn't really seem likely to be included in the final team based on her results at Russia Cup. She has another year to improve and make her case for the Olympics.

    5. Starkin made statements when he began coaching M.
      Shelgunova came first in Batumi. She has more potential than other gymnasts.

    6. Starkin has now spoken - but rather obtusely. See the latest post on this blog!

    7. They are defo hard on Shelgunova, tbh, she deserves a spot WAY more than Dmitrieva...

  10. According to V.Rod now Aliya has new injured knee ACL and after worlds will be the new operation in Germany


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