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