Since my somewhat disastrous attempts at forecasting the national team for the 2011 World Championships, I have decided to steer clear of predictions. But the Russians have just published details of their official squads for 2012 so we do have some information to chew over. This is the first in a series of blogs where I will present the names of the national team members : women, men, the various junior ranks, and the coaches.
It’s still early days, and who knows who will survive the precarious path towards fitness for the Olympics. Oh my goodness, how I would like to see them ALL in peak condition by the time of the Olympics.
At the present time, it is clear that the American women’s team is by far the strongest and deepest in the world. John Geddert’s recent Facebook declaration (19th January) that ‘the USA looks better than ever’ demonstrates the confidence that makes them almost inevitable winners in London.
The Russian team will challenge strongly, though, and will offer some of the most attractive gymnastics on display at the Olympics. They emerged from Tokyo a little bloodied after the fiasco of the all around competition, but then again were moral winners after a strong showing in the event finals. Silver medals in the team and all around competitions were not so bad, after all. For a team that almost draped themselves in ashcloth from the very beginning of their days in Tokyo, their final medal count seems almost immodest. They have earned the right to a fair fight in London.
Who is in the main senior squad? Well, beware – this may not be the final definitive list – in fact, with the Russian Championships due in the spring, this is almost certainly still work in progress. For example, in a recent interview, Andrei Rodionenko has mentioned Violetta Malikova as a contender. Her name does not appear on the list. Alar at the All Around Forum has also mentioned Ekaterina Shtronda as a surprise exclusion.
I transliterate the information here from the Russian Gymnastics Federation’s website, in the Russian alphabetical order the gymnasts appear there. Beneath the gymnast’s name appear her date of birth, where she trains, and the names of her personal coaches.
There are 14 gymnasts in total, and 13 are age-eligible for the Olympics. The oldest gymnast, Alyona Polyan, celebrates her 23rd birthday in June, just before the London Olympics. The youngest Olympics-eligible team member is Anna Rodionova, who turns 16 at the end of November.
A measure of the Russians’ progress is not only that six of the gymnasts are individual medalists at European or World Championships, but also the ever-widening geographical spread of their home gymnasia. Just a few years ago Moscow gymnasts dominated the team, but here we see the growing importance of such places as Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh and Tula, and the emergence of a few names on the gymnastics map, such as Yoshkar-Ola and Volzhski in the Volga region, and Alatir in the Chuvash Republic. This reflects the Russian Government’s increasing investment in sports.
Below the main list I will attempt to cluster the main contenders for a place on the Olympic team by all around and individual apparatus specialists. I have put the gymnasts into an order which I consider – at a glance – to reflect their competitive potential, although this potential may change as the year progresses. Vault is a real weakness in Russia’s armoury, and the team will have to address this if they wish to take advantage of the relatively high scores possible on this apparatus, the one at which their main rivals, the Americans really excel and use to its full scoring advantage.
The Russian team selection will not be easy. There is depth in the all around field but elsewhere specialisms are spread across a larger number of gymnasts than will make for a comfortable six pack. For once the team may perform better in finals (5-3-3) than in qualifications (5-4-3). There is clear air for improvement throughout the team, and for development of strength in depth. It always amazes me how bluff and honest the Russian coaches are, compared to the overtly confident spin of the Americans. But Rodionenko’s assertion that the team must build ‘reliability, quality and stability’ and avoid health problems and injuries, just about says it all. The Russians do not have the logistical advantages of the Americans, even if the quality of their work often speaks volumes for the richest cultural heritage that exists in sport.
Ksenia Dimitriyevna Afanasyeva
13th September 1991
N S Nabakova, M V Nazarova, S O Gaidorov
Yulia Yurievna Belokobylskaya
14th December 1995
N Y Dolgushina, N I Zubrilova, L N Kazakova
Anastasia Nikolayevna Grishina
16th January 1996
O E Sikorro, S B Zelikson, R M Ganina
Anna Yurievna Dementieva
28th December 1994
Y V Zhiganova, M P Savushkin, Z T Stolyarova
Diana Dimitryevna Elkina
3rd November 1996
E A Grebenkin, Y V Grebenkina
Yulia Andreyevna Inshina
15th April 1995
A A Pravdin, N V Pravdina, S A Buchneva
Viktoria Alexandrovna Komova
30th January 1995
G B Elfimov, O M Bulgakova, V V Kolesnikova, N Y Fedina
Aliya Fargatovna Mustafina
30th October 1994
Brigada, A S Alexandrov, R M Ganina
Tatiana Olegovna Nabieva
21st November 1994
V I Kiryashova, A V Kiryashov
Alyona Igoryevna Polyan
14th June 1989
L V Polyan
Anna Alexandrovna Rodionova
21st November 1996
G A Fomenko, L G Tiulkina
Anastasia Sergeievna Sidorova
28th September 1996
O N Sagina, L R Fudimova, L I Glushko
Maria Sergeievna Stepanova
27th December 1995
U V Purscheva, Y N Bachurin
Evgeniya Andreevna Shelgunova (eligible for senior international competition after 2013)
8th August 1997
L M Marunova, N A Tikhonova
ALL AROUND CONTENDERS
|Aliya Mustafina, team captain, World Champion 2010|
|Tatiana Nabieva, World Team Champion 2010|
UNEVEN BARS CONTENDERS
|Viktoria Komova, World Bars Champion 2011|
|Anna Dementieva, European Champion 2011|
|Ksenia Afanasyeva, World Floor Champion 2011|
Team spirit and leadership is vital for a diverse, emotional team like the Russians. Getting the right mix of personalities to work together adds a dimension of alchemy to an already difficult technical selection. Aliya Mustafina is the fighter, Ksenia Afanasyeva the mother. Viktoria Komova seems temperamental, artistic, while Anna Dementieva is diligent, well behaved. Anastasia Grishina is the intelligent, ambitious upstart, Yulia Belokobylskaya the quietly determined, impermeable one. Tatiana Nabieva the beating heart.
|Tatiana Nabieva competes on bars during the World Championships Team final, 2010. Russia won gold.|
There are but a few short months before the Russians will be back in London. I wish every single one of them the very best of luck as they enter the Olympic fray.
Pictures (Nabieva, Komova, Dementieva) by kind permission of the Russian Gymnastics Federation
Afanasyeva by permission of the FIG/Volker Minkus
This is a syndicated post, which originally appeared at Rewriting Russian Gymnastics.