Pages

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Nelli Kim - 'Russian gymnastics has closed in on itself' - Lupita translates

Lupita has translated this ITAR-TASS interview with Nelli Kim.  It's controversial, to say the least.

Ed's note: much of the initial response to this interview - both here and in the wider gymternet -  has focussed on the detail of Kim's words and especially her comments about Viktoria Komova, and smiling.  But I think these have to be taken in context, and not too literally. Don't forget that just a day ago Andrei Rodionenko complained bitterly about the judging in Antwerp, calling Kim's behaviour 'aggressive'. Kim is responding to this here, and to the wider current context of Russian gymnastics.  What she is essentially saying to the Russian coach is 'get your own house in order, produce confident, disciplined, well trained gymnasts - stop complaining, do your job, and I will do mine.'   She goes about saying this in a somewhat long winded way and says some things along the way that seem contradictory, unfair, inappropriate even for the President of the WTC. Kim was probably talking 'on the wing', and the Russian reporter's choice of emphasis may have influenced the way this came across. Not to make excuses for Kim, who should know how to do an interview by now.  But her overall meaning is important, and clear - that the Russian coaches have to stop complaining and fighting amongst themselves; look after their patch, and she will tend hers.


Nelli Kim, President of the WTC of the FIG
17:15 10/10/2013 Interview

Russian gymnastics has closed in on itself and this is the reason why it is not progressing – Nelli KIM

In an interview to the ITAR-TASS correspondent, Nelli Kim, President of the FIG Women’s Technical Committee, five-time Olympic champion as a member of the Soviet team, shared her standpoints on why Russian women’s gymnastics can’t recover its previous leading position and called upon the national team’s coaches team to devote themselves to work, and not to blame third parties.

- Сurrently the Americans dominate gymnastics, said Kim. – Unfortunately, Russia is not among the leaders, as it was before the dismantling of the USSR.  Moreover, Romania and China also lose to the US . Why are the Americans well ahead of the rest of the world?  Essentially thanks to Soviet specialists who went to work in the US at the beginning of the 90s.  Americans gymnasts’ success is also due to Bulgarian, Romanian and Chinese coaches.

- Why aren’t the Russian specialists coming back to Russia?

- If someone is working in good conditions, why should he or she go to something more insecure?  Russia is not able to create similar conditions.  But I know that over the past years the situation has changed for the better.  I was recently at Ozero Krugloye and it is one of the best gyms in the world.

- The problem with Russian gymnastics might be that the coaches have no kids to train ...  For a long period of time sport was down in the dumps in our country ...

- Тhe national team’s coaches have to work as much as possible without wasting time on useless arguments. The Russians have talented kids, сoached by qualified specialists.  Russia, with very strong gymnastics traditions, has enough gyms.  You only have to work together and then the results won’t be an unreachable goal.  The coaches’ team is such a mess . They fired Alexander Alexandrov, who did so much for the team ...

- How can you explain the changes in the Code of Points, and in the criteria of the scores for the gymnasts’ performances that appeared after the London Olympics?

- Lots of people criticize women’s gymnastics because athletes have all become toy soldiers. Femininity has been lost . The new Code of Points encourages coaches and gymnasts to create original routines enhancing the competitor’s individuality. People have to perform and create. Soviet schooling was always well known for the beauty of floor routines. The whole world learned from us how to create a routine, how to combine music and sport. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist anymore . Now the Canadians from Cirque du Soleil teach the whole world.

- Many Russians consider you as someone who is against or even an enemy of Russian gymnastics. They remember Aliya Mustafina’s vault in Rotterdam 2010 and Viktoria Komova’s scores at the following World Championships. According to our specialists, both gymnasts were underscored by the judges you lead. They were surprised to learn that Nelli Kim, five-time Olympic champion and member of the USSR team, was leading the WTC.

- Let’s go back to 2010.  Aliya’s vault was not difficult.  She was not very strong on vault. With the Code of Points she could not win.  I am the head of the Technical Committee and my task is to follow up the Code of Points.  I have to be indifferent to the gymnast performing, whether from the US, Russia, China or Romania . For me all the gymnasts are the same.  If Mustafina’s coaches haven’t worked enough during the training sessions, they can't justify their failure with me.  You have to work in order not to repeat the same mistakes and don’t blame anyone else.

It’s not my fault if the Russians often lose . If the Americans enter the arena and are far superior to the other rivals, the judges give them the highest scores. If Russians gymnasts were far better than the others, nobody would dare underscore them. Nobody would remember the judges or Kim.

You have to be responsible for your failures. If his athlete has not competed well at a competition, the coach has to be responsible for that. I have no prejudice against Russia . I am very grateful to the Soviet Union, where I was able to grow as a person and as an athlete. I want to tell the Russian coaches’ team to stop causing big scenes and to devote their time to working. They have all the potential to recover the leading positions. The coaches should come out of their mess and see what the rest of the gymnastics world is doing. And improve their knowledge, without living on the old background.  Instead of maintaining a normal relation with the head of the FIG Technical Committee, the leaders of the national team often slander me.

- Are there also more reasons for the gap with the leaders?

- Another problem with Russian gymnastics is that for 22 years after the dismantling of the USSR, it has not changed at all. The other teams had to follow the rules of the Soviet team. With the emergence of a Russian team, a Ukrainian team and a Belarus team, everything changed. The rules of the game are identical for all, but somehow Russia cannot accept this.

I think that the Russian Gymnastics Federation is closed in on itself and doesn’t try to have a foreign policy . What prevents you from uniting with other federations of other CIS countries and create a block to lobby the FIG? When everyone acts on their own, nobody listens to them.

- What are the weaknesses of Russian gymnasts?

-The Russians, the Ukrainians, the Belarus lose to their rivals from other countries because they are weaker physically. Current gymnastics has become very dynamic and strength-based.  Frankly speaking, I feel uneasy when gymnasts with an athletic, not gymnastic body, become world champions. Their performances lack elegance, finesse. But they perform like catapults, jump so high ...   A modern gymnast who wishes to fight for the leading positions, should be strong, enduring. On the Russian team there are practically no such gymnasts. Vika Komova was near the ideal. But she lacked charm, smile, ardour …

Before the London Olympics, I thought that with Komova Russia had found someone to replace Khorkina, who for a long time was the major gymnastics star. I believed that Vika would be the world prima for at least four years. But at the Olympics I didn’t see what I had expected. Komova does beautiful movements on the floor; she is elegant on the podium. But she performs apathetically, with stooped shoulders and dull eyes. She doesn’t perform, she works . The judges don’t give her high scores. I don’t know what happened to the girl. Perhaps she burnt out before the Olympics.

Compare Komova to the American Maroney . They are the same age. Vika’s gymnastics is more beautiful and cleaner. But her rival enters the arena and flies, smiles. I think that the American girls often beat the Russians thanks to their positive vitality .

The judges like polite, smiling gymnasts . Like in any other activity. The Russians girls almost never smile. In Antwerp I saw Mustafina smile for the first time.

- What would you say to gymnastics fans who blame you for your anti Russian policy?

- I am not an American citizen; I live in the US because it’s better for me to work there. But in my soul I am a still citizen of the great country that disappeared at the beginning of the 90s. And I do love Russia very much .

Аlbert Starodubtsev
/ITAR-ТАSS, Аntwerp/


What do you think of Kim's words?  Is it right that the President of the WTC should speak in this way?  Please comment!

30 comments:

  1. I wish they would stop glorifying smiling. A smile doesn't equal expression, and many soviets proved that. Some of what she says about Komova is not too apropiate for someone in her position.
    Otherwise, I think she is right in some things and maybe oversteps some boundaries... It is true that the russians often look to blame outside to avoid seeying their own faults, and that keeps them stuck, they never solve their issues. At least this is the Rodionenkos way.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree. Smiles aren't going to change anything when is their conditioning that should change. I don't think is impossible for the Russians to be stronger and at the same time artistic when we have Romanian gymnasts having a lot difficulty on floor and beam and they aren't exactly the bulky powerful type of gymnasts like the Americans.

    ReplyDelete
  3. " If the Americans enter the arena and are far superior to the other rivals, the judges give them the highest scores. If Russians gymnasts were far better than the others, nobody would dare underscore them"
    Wow what a confession, so you know/think that your judges overscoring the Americans and underscoring the Russians ... well done Nelli
    And speaking of "smiles" was Aliya shooting smiles everywhere when she won in 2010 ? I don't think, you just adopted the American mantra concerning the russian gymnasts like any commentator in NBC
    I think this woman has a real issue with the Russian Federation ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. She makes good points when it comes to the Russian programme having to look within and fix what's going wrong in the gym and beyond (firing the Rodionenko's would be the first step) and stop blaming everybody else. However, she claims to have no bias towards any country yet speaks against that statement almost immediately. She openly admits the judges prefer the smiley and positive Americans (they're lovely, sure) but if that means that every other gymnast suddenly has to walk around with an ever permanent grin on their face to gain better scores, they also need to look within their system and look at what the gymnast is performing purely on skill and artistry, not whetever she winks or smiles at you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What the hell was that? Did she seriously imply that smiling equals better scores. And how has she never seen Aliya smile before? Did she not go to work during bars and floor finals last year or AA finals in 2010? I hope she realizes that she contradicted herself saying she has nothing against the Russians it was kind of obvious she did.
    Anyways her point about the team coaches was spot on how could they have fired/demoted Alexandrov somebody needs to stand accountable for that coughRodionenkoscough.

    ReplyDelete
  6. In my opinion the whole interview is an attack on the Rodionenkos' methods, implicitly if not directly. I do not agree with all she says but much of it, eg the physical condition of the team and the state of their morale, could be considered right ... Whether it is appropriate for the President of the WTC to make such comments though is questionable. I do not like the way she names gymnasts - and what she says about them is downright unfair. And since when were gymnasts judged on their smiles?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I do not like the way she names gymnasts"
      I think you mean her trash talk about Komova, right?

      Delete
  7. She is someone to talk about complaining, I remember reading an interview where she complained about the 1980 olympics and her music not playing correctly. I certainly never saw her smile in any of the videos I've seen of her either.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow!

    Very interesting comments. I would have to agree with many of them.

    While I do not like how she named specific gymnasts, I have felt similarly about Komova. When she makes a mistake, her shoulders slump, she takes extra steps. It is frustrating to watch because I want so much for her to win, but she did these very things on vault in AA in London, on beam landing in Team final in London, and even going back to 2011 Worlds in the team final when the US had wrapped up the gold, she competed last on floor and seemed to be very out of it as if she had checked out early.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It is a strange interview. I'm not sure it's appropriate for her to call out Vika like that, although I do have to agree with her statement about how Vika "works, but does not perform." I've noticed that myself. She is artistic, but she's not an artist, or a performer. (No, it has nothing to do with smiling. Boginskaya did not smile very often when she danced on floor, but she was definitely a performer! Same with Khorkina.)

    The smiling comment could be interpreted in different ways. It could be referring to the confidence and ease that the Americans exuded during the London team final, which even Mostepanova noted in one of her interviews.

    It could also be that the act of smiling during a floor final can create the illusion that the dancer is truly performing and expressing herself in her dance, or dancing with passion or feeling. It is possible that dance can be "too perfect" or at least, technically perfect but lacking in feeling, passion, or expression. (I just watched a video of Svetlana Zakharova dancing on Youtube. A few commentators said that her dancing was too mechanical and lacking expression.)

    However, I find it strange to single out Maroney as a smiling performer. She does not smile on floor. (I went back and watched videos of her floors on Youtube, she does not smile.) Not all Americans smile on floor. Aly Raisman does not, neither does Kyla Ross. I don't think Kaitlyn Ohashi smiles either. It is a strange comment.

    As for the Russian system, I do agree that they spend far too much time criticizing others rather than looking at ways to solve their problems internally.

    All that aside, I don't know if it is appropriate someone in Mrs. Kim's position to speak the way she speaks in this interview. Odd, all the way around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems like the Americans smile a lot more just because they win a lot more. It's not natural for somebody to be happy when their dreams were just crushed.
      On another note, I also found the comment about McKayla really weird. Sure, she was smiling after she did the best vault of the London Olympics, but she definitely was not smiling after the vault EF...
      If anyone shows consistent fighting spirit, it's Aliya.

      Delete
    2. But,about smiling - I think,Nelli Kim needs to watch again her competitions and see how much she smiled during them.

      Delete
  10. She isn't talking only literally about smiles. She means that the competitive spirit, the excitement, the love of the sport, the FIRE is not showing up in Komova and the other Russians, despite their ability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, I thought that was fairly obvious.

      Delete
    2. Me too! Thank you Denn333, thought that was fairly obvious as well. Sportsmanship is very big is America, so perhaps American's naturally have it where it needs to be taught in a country like Russia? In America you can be a skilled athlete but if you have poor Sportsmanship, its hard to go far in the sport (in America).

      Delete
  11. I think we are in dangerof over emphasising the issue of smiling raised by Kim. What she is saying is that the gymnasts seem to lack a bit of positive energy and confidence compared to their rivals the Americans. And that this comes from the coaches, who are too distracted by all the internal politics going on in their gym, and incomplaining about the judging. Don't forget, the context of this interview is that Andrei Rodionenko has complained publicly about the judging in Antwerp, describing Kim's behaviour as 'aggressive'. No doubt Kim is hopping mad about this. What she is really saying is, 'concentrate on your job, and I'll do mine'.
    She goes about it in a funny way and says things she really shouldn't along the way, but that is the main message of the interview, which rewards repeated readings and careful consideration of its overall meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Komova often lacks fighting spirit, it is true that when something goes wrong her body language implies that she just gives up. But then again, I didn't see any routine in London that showed the fire and passion of her all around FX. That was Komova fighting!
    And even if when she constantly invokes smiling, she might mean confidence... she still goes too far, she complains not only about Komova, but also Mustafina. Mustafina's expression and confidence are just fine, for one. Why does she even bring her up? It would have been easier to say that the russians lack confidence, because throughout half the interview she gives the impression that the judges seems more likely to score the smiling and positive gymnasts better. That is what really bothers me about this, more even than her picking on the russian gymansts.
    As I said before, i agree pretty much with all that is said about the russian way of dealing with problems, and I see this also as an answer to the last Rodionenko interview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How anyone could complain that Mustafina does not exude confidence and competitive fire is simply beyond me!

      Delete
  13. Lupita (Translator)
    Yesterday, as I was translating the interview for Elizabeth's blog, I kept wondering where Ms.Kim's self-critique was. She says that femininity is lost. She doesn't like the lack of finesse of some of the world champions. Who is responsable for this shift in gymnastics? She has been the Technical Committee's President for a few years now.
    I understand that she is not happy with Rodionenko's remarks. But how inelegant and tactless to compare gymnasts.
    Some gymnasts might not feeling like smiling if they know they are going to be underscored and that all the artistry work they have done will never pay off because the FIG now wants "toy soldiers".
    I know that the Russian Federation should detect more powerful kids, but if they choose another path they are free to do so. Ms. KIM doesn't work for the Russian Gymnastics Federation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true. She speaks about this tendency in gymnastics as if it was completely unrelated to her position. She can't complain about gymnasts with no artistry if these days they don't need it. Why waste hours of training that when it's not properly rewarded? Because it doesn't come out of nowhere.

      Delete
  14. I think it holds great resentment of the USSR. And it implicitly admitted that she Overscore gymnasts American while underscore the gymnasts Russian, Romanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian. What a Shame Mrs. Nelli Kim!!!Now we know why there Aliya won the silver medal, and Miss Ross won a medal for elegance ... (Do not you think Kyla Ross is as elegant as Anna Pogras?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I´ve should said Aliya NOT won the silver medal AA in the Words 2013; Aliya won the bronze medal in the finals UB....

      Delete
  15. How could she say Aliya did not have enough difficulty on vault in 2010? Didn't she do the same 2 vaults as Maroney won with just this year? No one is complaining about Moroney's difficulty .....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She did, but the 2nd vault (named after Mustafina) was judged to have been done in the piked position so it got down ranked in D score back in 2010. It stirred some controversy. But if you watch the video objectively you can see that she was not in a full layout position on her 2nd vault. You have to be in the layout position for 60% or more of the vault, so either you take E score points away based on how much of an angle she was off from full layout, or you down rank the vault to a piked vault and the D score changes. BBC coverage did an excellent job in explaining why the vault was down ranked and why Nabieva was also down ranked in the same event final. So that if likely why Nelli Kim claimed Aliya's vault was not that difficult?

      Delete
  16. I totally agree with Kim: they should complain less, train hard and humble and cheer up when the time arrives, 'cause the Gymnastics should be about joy. It's hard to find motivation when you believe to be already the best. But there's no way you can be considered to be the best if you don't prove it, time after time. Making excuses doesn't help, because it doesn't explain the reasons of the failure. And it doesn't represent the best way of teaching how to do things to these young kids they are dealing with. It's important to me, as a coach, to generate a positive environment, filled with joy, happiness, will to the hard work and guts to keep on doing it. If you don't ease the process for them, you won't get the best out on anyone. Ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, What Mrs Nelli Kim wants is powerfull and smilling gymnastics? Like American team, oops, Dream? What a Joke!!! I would like see The American Team Smiling if the judges underscore them and refuses their inquires.

      Delete
    2. Yes I agree with your theory, it is all about positive reinforcement. That is the added edge that the Americans have nowadays over and above the creme de la creme in terms of coaches...

      Delete
  17. As a spectator I feel that Ms Kim has made very valid points with regards to the internal turmoil of the Russian Federation, To win you need teamwork and positivity, and it is transpiring that none is forthcoming. I also agree with her comment regarding the fact that federations are now producing winning toy soldiers but in this case I am pretty sure that as a a high profile within FIG, she can definitely do something about it. There is very little artistry in artistic gymnastics nowadays alas.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I agree a bit with Nelli Kim but disagree with this 'smiling' issue. I found Aliya compelling and quite fascinating to watch. When she received her medal in London, we all felt her joy when she finally gave us a grin...that was because it was 'real' not being used to score some points. At that moment I had a ton of respect for her honesty and true sportsmanship.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nellie did not need to smile. The looks of one so beautiful was enough.

    ReplyDelete