Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Melnikova's interview

Angelina Melnikova gave an interview to a local Voronezh news site after she returned home.
Here is the summary:
She says painkiller injections were prohibited during the Olympics, so she had to satisfy with pills, even though she was injured.
They mostly talked to Italian gymnasts while there, because one of their trainers used to work in Italy and could translate from Italian if their English wasn't sufficient.
After the team final she was bored and wanted to go home, because she wasn't in any individual final. They only had two tours around the city, so there wasn't much to do.
She didn't like the food in the Olympic village, says it was always the same and not very good, mostly pizza and pasta.
She really wants to drive, but she's only 16, so no chance of getting a license for another two years. In this interview she said she'll give her prize car to her parents, but, apparently, she's already put it up for sale.
It was hard for her to endure the award ceremony in Kremlin, because her injury makes seating painful and they had to sit for hours.
The gym in Voronezh (where Komova also trains) is quite small. Melnikova doesn't have to wait for her turn when she trains there, but other (non NT members) girls have to wait, because there's not enough equipment for everyone.
on 2/09 the team goes to Spain for  a training camp/vacation and after that she's going to do rehab for her injuries in Voronezh.

In another interview she says thanks to all her fans and that they are her inspiration.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Prize cars and what to do with them

Russians are currently engaged in heated discussions about the fact that one of the synchro swimmers immediately put her new BMW car up for sale.
People are apparently outraged as they expected the Olympians to drive these cars forever, or, at least, for some time.
Most don't take into accounts that having a car like this costs A LOT of money - insurance, taxes, service etc. Most medalists come from modest background and can't really afford driving an expensive car. Some of them also can't drive - either because they don't want to, or because they're still minors (Melnikova's just turned 16, while legal driving age in Russia is 18). Probably, some would rather get money for a down payment for an apartment than a new BMW.
Overall, people should just accept that others are allowed to do whatever they want with their property.

After Rio

So, what's happening with the Russian team after Rio?
Mustafina, Paseka, Tutkhalian and Kuksenkov gave short interviews right before they went to Kremlin to get their awards and brand-new cars.
The whole team - those who don't take a break after the Olympics - will go to Spain on 3/09 for a training camp. Mustafina is not going as she's taking a break. She's going on vacation to Sochi instead - that's where her boyfriend trains. She was invited to participate in the gymnastics show organized by Aleksey Nemov  on 16/09 (Khorkina and Zamolodchikova will participate among others), but didn't want to cancel her break, so she's not participating.
Paseka says her health is much worse than before and she's focusing on rehab for her back.
Seda and Angelina aren't taking any breaks they are going to Spain with the team.
Kuksenkov was asked about relationship with Ukrainian athletes (as he's originally from Ukraine but moved to Russia after London) and he says that they're still good friends, there's no animosity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Some interviews with Russian gymnasts

For now the gymnasts are getting some well-deserved rest, although, I assume there will be more media coverage soon with awards, dinners, events etc.
Dasha, Seda and Masha went to Sochi to see some MMA fighting (probably both for sponsorship reasons and as a prize). Gelya went home to Voronezh (I assume as she is still a minor she's not allowed to just fly around the country without chaperones) and Aliya went on vacation (likely, with her boyfriend).
There aren't many news about gymnastics right now, so I gathered a few interviews and articles that were done during the Olympics.

Vika Komova gave an interview about her rehab routine right after she returned from treatment in Germany.
She says that her back pain (because of fractured vertebrae) was so debilitating she just couldn't get up in the morning and obviously couldn't train.
She has to stop training for at least half a year and will go to Germany for a check up in three months. Right now she is allowed to do some back exercises, sit ups, stationary bike and massage. She really wants to return to elite but it is still not clear whether she'll be able to.

Aliya Mustafina topped the media ratings as the most popular Olympian in Russia. Yay Aliya!

Seda Tutkhalian talked about how her parents support her. She talks to her mom everyday for emotional support. She says she needs a lot of psychological preparation before every competition, much more than her teammates, because she is always afraid to compete.

In a pretty weirdly written article about the gymnasts, the author talks how Andrey Rodionenko treated Spiridonova right after her fall in the bars EF.  Apparently, Rodionenko humiliated Dasha in front of the journalists, yelling at her, calling her a disappointment for the team and the coaching stuff. The journalist, however, doesn't find this kind of behavior abusive and says that it's a coaching strategy, that Rodionenko behaves this way on purpose to motivate his gymnasts. Some motivation, huh. Although, I'm not really surprised. Abuse from coaches is pretty frequent in Russia and was widespread in the past. When I fist watched Dance moms and then read comments from other viewers like "how can that be? Outrageous! How coaches like that can even exist?!" I was nonplussed because Abby was basically every single coach I had back in Russia. My ballet coach actually hit dancers with a sticks when we didn't do the moves properly. I left because of that but other dancers (and their parents) were totally okay with hitting and yelling. In an article about rhythmic gymnastics, Elena Vaytsekhovskaya openly talks about abusive atmosphere at the training center, but she praises it as effective. Mamun's coach, Amina Zaripova says she regrets not yelling at Rita because that would've prepared her for the training style on the national team.
And you might've heard about Mikhail Mamiashvili, the head of the Russian wrestling federation who allegedly punched a female wrestler, Inna Truzhukova, after she lost a fight for bronze. He also made comments about two other female wrestlers who won silvers in Rio, calling them worthless and saying that they should've fought to win or died trying. While the punching incident is being investigated and there's plenty of outrage in the media, there's also plenty of support for Mamiashvili, where people say that this situation is not a big deal, because he's a good person and was just under a lot of stress and wasn't thinking clearly.
So, I don't think that coaching abuse in Russia will disappear soon.
Well, back to the weird interview. Dasha was crying hard after the EF and she couldn't explain what happened, she said that she never fell before on that element.
Masha was giggly and talked about how she's starving and how she had to drink 2 liters of water because she couldn't pee at the doping control.
Aliya said that she's exhausted and only wants to have some rest. When the journalist asked whether her parents saw the EF she said they were probably still asleep (it was after midnight in Moscow). The journalist then asked what kind of parents would be asleep when their daughter is competing at the Olympics, which, Aliya thought, was very rude of him, so she turned his back to him and refused to answer any more questions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Interviews with Aliya, Maria and Angelina

Now that the Olympics are over for the Russian gymnasts, there will be a frenzy of media appearances.
Unlike US gymnasts, Russian don't go on tours, but there will be many tv interviews and articles. Most Russian gymnasts do not earn money from sponsorships, but they do get a lot of money from the governement when they win Olympics medals. Usually, there's a hefty sum from the federal government in addition to some lower (but still good) sums from the regions where the gymnasts are from. If they represent several regions (like Aliya represents both Moscow and Penza), they'll get money from all of these regions as well. Gold medalists usually also get new cars. After London Aliya got more than 11 million rubles in prize money (that would be enough to buy an apartment in Moscow) and a new car which she gave to her father. For her three Rio medals she is supposed to receive more than 8 million rubles just from the federal government (and probably another car).

Just before the Olympics Aliya said she really wants to travel - as a tourist and not a gymnast. She plans on attending the 2018 Winter Olympics where her boyfriend is supposed to compete in bobsleigh.

Here are some interviews there were taped in the last few days:
Aliya and Masha are talking to the Match TV newscaster right after the EFs where they both won medals. Aliya and Masha said they were both in a lot of pain during the last competitive season and wanted to quit, but had support from friends and family, so they stayed till Rio. Aliya says she mostly wants to have a long break from gymnastics and doesn't have any certain plans right now besides the rehab for her injuries. Paseka certainly wants to continue and aims for a vault gold in 2020, but first she needs to heal her injured back - she will travel to Germany for that.

Another interview with Aliya:
She says the medals are quite heavy, each weighs about 600 grams. When asked wich medal is more precious for her, she says that all of them equally are precious. At the moment she is fully sutisfied with her gymnastics career, but that might change in the future, she doesn't know yet. Her main goal coming to Rio was to help the team. Her favorite apparatus always changes depending on how the training goes. If she doesn't do well on bars, she starts hating them and the same with other apparatuses. If she does well, she likes them.
When asked could she say that it's her last Olympics she smiled and answered: "Nope, I'm not going to say anything about it".

Angelina talks about the team final
She says that they knew going into vault that they can win silver if they hit. They were really freaking out when Paseka was vaulting last.
Aliya's support helped her to forget about the beam fall and to concentrate on floor. They were very pleased with judging, especially on bars.
They are not staying till the closing ceremony, the whole team leaves on 17.08. She was devastated after not qualifying to the all-around final, but now she thinks it's for the best, because she is injured and it's better for her to get some rest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Some Russian news

Russian fan are joyful about the 4 medals in the last two days - Paseka, Mustafina and Abliazin - so there are tons or articles and interviews with the gymnasts.

Apparently, Denis Abliazin not only has problems with his shoulder, but also suffered stressed fractures of periosteums in both legs, which made tumbling extremely painful for him. He's taking a break to get treatment and to heal at least till the beginning of 2017.

Ksenia Semenova, Denis's fiancee (no, they're not married yet) gave an interview about their relationship. Here are the main points:
They met when they were kids (both training at the Round Lake), but it was a long time before she finally agreed to date him.
Denis is a cat person, they had two cats, but one recently ran away...
They live in Himki (Moscow's suburb), in Ksenia's apartment [I thought Denis lived in Penza, but, apparently, not).
She thought he wouldn't be able to compete in Rio, because he can barely walk  and cringes every times his legs are touched. But the team needed him and he decided to compete despite the injury.
He will go to Munich for treatment right after Rio.
She doesn't know when they'll get married, because right now Denis spends all his time on training and they can't plan the wedding.
She doesn't address the rumors about her pregnancy, only says they plan on having children someday.

In other news, both Paseka and Mustafina don't want to retire yet, but plan on taking long breaks to deal with their injuries.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Aliya's boyfriend on their relationship

Aleksey Zaytsev, Russian bobsleigh athlete, and Alyia Mustafina's boyfriend gave an interview about their relationship.
Even if you don't speak Russian, go check the link out, because there are many photos of the couple.
Here's the summary of the interview:
They met in a hospital in the Fall of 2015. In Russia, athletes on the national teams are usually sent to the same hospital that specializes in sports medicine. Aliya was there for her knee injury, he was there for his torn adductor. He invited her, among other athletes,  over to his room for tea and they hit it off. He supported her during the dark period in her life when she wanted to retire. Aleksey is from Krasnodar, a city in the south of Russia, but he regularly comes to Moscow to train with the national bobsleigh team. Their training centers in the Moscow region are only 40 minutes away from each other, so they spend weekends together. he also likes to surprise her and fly to Moscow without warning just to see her.
He seems very romantic and adoring Aliya. He even writes poetry for her. They want to get married, but a bit later (he's training for the Winter Olympics right now) and they don't want a big wedding, because they are both very private people. He also said that Aliya really-really wants to have kids.

Oleg on haters, AA final and team final

Oleg Verniaev, unfortunately, is still getting a lot of hate about his refusal to talk to Russian journalists. I will not even post links to the hideous things that people say about him.
I understand his decision and I think it's different from Lebanese athletes not letting Israelis on the bus or the Egyptian judoka refusing to shake hands with the Israeli who beat him. Oleg  is always friendly with the Russian athletes, he's known them for years and friends with many of them. Just look at the picture he made with Nikita Nagornyi after Russian media started writing about the whole "interview refusal" situation.
The capture says "Oleg and me are replying to all the haters".
So, Oleg's beef isn't with Russians as individuals or with Russian athletes, it's with Russian government. Russian media are heavily controlled by the government and have been spreading anti-Ukrainian propaganda, so it's pretty clear why Oleg doesn't want to deal with them. Consider also the fact that Oleg was born in Donetsk, one of the cities currently occupied by the Russian army, so for him it hits home.

Oleg is also such a class act when he talks about his competitors. When asked about the judging during the all-around he said that he believes his scores were deserved, he's really happy to compete with Uchimura and be so close to the gymnastics king and he hopes to beat him one day.

He also talks about the team final, when the Ukrainian MAG team was accused of throwing the competition. He says that they learned that Maksim isn't able to compete only 15 minutes before the start. They tried to figure something out, but they don't speak English that well (and I can attest to that - I was interpreting for the Ukrainian head of delegation during Euros, because she spoke no English whatsoever) and were just not able to understand what they need to do and do it in time. If you don't know, Ukrainian gymnastics federation is extremely poor, they're severely underfunded, during Euros the ministry of sport didn't pay for some of the coaches to go to Bern and they didn't even have money to send all the delegation to the banquet after the competition. So, I can imagine they don't have the funds to bring an interpreter with them and get into these kinds of situations.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Afanasyeva's getting married, Russian media continue being horrible sexists

Ksenia Afanasyeva decided that if she's not going to Rio she might as well get married. She posted a paper from the registration office on her instagram. It says that Ksenia and Roman are getting married on the 10th of September 2016 in Tula. In Russia the system works like that - you apply to the registration office to get married and they give you a date in about a month. Russia doesn't recognize religious ceremonies, so all marriages must be officiated in a government registration office, although later a couple might perform a religious ceremony in church as well, if they wish so. Most don't.

She didn't announce official retirement for now and she probably won't till the next year, if she decides to retire, because being on the national team means she receives monthly salary. However, I think, it means that she's retiring - she's been talking forever about wanting children and studying veterinary medicine and gymnastics doesn't fit these plans well.
Ksenia is 24 years old. In Russia that's kind of on the older side for marriage, actually.  When I was 24, most of my classmates were already married and had kids. So, Grishina's marriage at 19, for example, is not considered early in Russia, it's a normal marriage age. Take in consideration, that Russians usually graduate from high school at 16 or 17 and then go straight to college. That means that at 20-21 they already have a BA and start working. Many girls think that the last year of college is perfect for getting married, because this way they'll take their husband's name and get their college diploma with a new name already. Yeah, Russia is still pretty patriarchal. Although, in Israel I also often get asked why I kept my last name. I usually answer "because it's the 21st century", but most don't get it.

Russian journalists continue being sexist pigs. In Russia, having sculpted muscles, especially biceps, is considered very unfeminine and ugly. So, A Russian media outlet published an article about yesterday's AA final called "Beauty and the Beast". In their mind Aliya is "Beauty", while Simone is "Beast". They go on describing Aliya as "princess", while Simone and Aly get called "bodybuilder", "terminator", "Schwarzenegger in a skirt", "triangle bodies"... If you thought you can't be more disgusted, read on: they talk about the recent scandal in US gymnastics with coaches abusing and raping gymnasts and say that Simone was surely never an object of a pedophile's lust because of how she looks.
Ok, I'm pretty used to open sexism in Russian media, but this is too much even for me...

Gymternet news

It's the Olympics and so many things are happening! I made an overview of some things I learned from various news sites today and yesterday.

David Beliavskiy of Russia proposed to his girlfriend, Maria Mihailova, after winning the team silver. 
Here's a photo of the couple from David's instagram.

Looks like Denis Abliazin might finally marry Ksenia Semenova (they still aren't married, were waiting till after Rio) and there are rumors that the couple is expecting a baby. No official confirmation from the gymnasts yet.

Dipa Kramakar of India was grounded on her birthday with no phone privileges. Her coach sounds kinda abusive.

Angelina Melnikova  of Russia had a hard time at the Olympics. Her first coach, though, says she's always been a fighter. Her mom says that Angelina isn't allowed to buy chocolate by herself (only her mom can buy her chocolate) and she has to wait till 18 to get a second piercing in her ear.

Oleg Verniaev made a video in which he thanked his fans and said he had a great day. He said he felt like he was carried by angels from apparatus to apparatus.
He's also at the center of controversy in the Russian media. Apparently, the Ukrainian Minister of Sport ordered all athletes to refuse interviews from Russian media. Not all followed the order, but Verniaev did - as soon as he saw that the journalist in the mixed zone is from Russia, he turned around and left.

Russians aren't big on gender equality, unfortunately, and sexist comments in mainstream media are a very common thing. However, some websites aren't happy with it and are trying to call the sexists out.
Russian website Wonderzine, known for its feminist stance, critisized the coverage of Olympic gymnastics in Russian media. They specifically focused on one outrageously sexist article, but I can tell you that sexist coverage, unfortunately, is a general trend.
The article in question, by Kommersant, says that the silver-winning WAG team performed "like men" (and, apparently, not like weak and silly women), which is a good thing. However, later they are described in derogative terms. Melnikova is called "devchushka" which can be translated "girlie" - this is a term that you would use describing a little girl, not an Olympic athlete. They say that Aliya was mostly nursing her injuries instead of competing the last quad (and this is about an athlete who basically carried her team the whole quad and earned multiple medals). The author praises their smiles instead of their gymnastics.
The the author focuses on American gymnasts. Now, if you're not aware, the coverage of American female gymnasts in Russia is usually not flatterin at all - they are called "manly", "big", "with ugly lines" and so on. Here it was a bit better, but he still called Simone Biles and Gabrielle Douglas "stocky" and then went on describing Aly Raisman as "curvy" and "hot thing".
I'm disgusted but not surprised.

Ok, so I've decided to start a blog, because 140 characters are just not enough for all my rants about gymnastics.
A bit about myself:
I'm Luba.
I was born in Russia and lived there till 2009, when I moved to Israel.
I've never done gymnastics myself. As a kid I did figure skating but found it quite boring. I got interested in gymnastics after watching Make it or Break it. The first competition I watched on tv was 2010 Worlds. I was hooked.
Since we don't really have competitions here in Israel, aside from the national championships, I mostly watch stuff on TV. The only international competition I've been to was 2016 Euros. I volunteered there doing stuff like organizing transfer for athletes, collecting start lists from team managers and so on. It was absolutely awesome and I want to do it again.

Since I speak Russian, there will be lots of information about Russian gymnastics and I will occasionally post translations and stuff.