Thursday, February 16, 2017

Beliavskiy's interview - summary

Last week Valentina Rodionenko said that Beliavskiy will not participate in the European Championship because of the kidney stones.
Well, as it often happens with things that Valentina says, the gymnast has a different opinion.
David Beliavskiy gave an interview to a local Yekaterinburg's paper (the city he's from). Here's a summary.

David's glad he had a few months of rest after the Olympics because the training leading to the games left him with no energy. Some days he could barely crawl into bed. He felt like he had added responsibility on the team and it was hard for him. He started training again only in December and got in shape quite quickly.
He does have kidney stones, but, according to him, it's not very serious and he doesn't need a surgery or hospitalization.
He's not yet sure whether he'll compete at the Russian championship later this month. He might do one or two apparatuses if he feels he's ready. At the same time, he is planning on preparing for the Euros (I guess, he didn't hear Valentina decided he's not going).
His hand doesn't bother him anymore, the rest and some rehab worked really well.
He feels fine about the fact that Kuksenkov and Abliazin are currently injured, because there is enough depth on the team and younger gymnasts need experience and ready to give the veterans some competition.
Worlds will be the main start of the year for the men's team.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oleg Stepko's interview - translation

Oleg Stepko gave an interview to about his life in Azerbaijan and some competition plans. He seems to be the happiest of the Azeri gymnastics acquisition and the situation works very well for him (unlike Netreba, Pavlova and her parents and Petro Pahniuk).
The interview is actually quite interesting and Oleg seems to be quite mature and articulate, so I decided to translate the who thing, not just to summarize it. Enjoy!

Q: Oleg, how was it for you to start your life from blank slate?
A: I don't think I started my life from blank slate after moving to Azerbaijan. First of all, I never had any life besides gymnastics and I don't have it now. I don't see practically anything besides gym and apparatuses. I train two times a day. The drive to the gym is half an hour one way. So I drive there in the morning, train, drive back,. rest a bit, drive to the gym again. I spend 2 hours per day on the road and train for several hours each time I'm at the gym. I guess, if I lived in the city center I'd have more free time, but I chose to live in the suburbs, in a house, on the sea coast.

Q: So that you could go to the beach and swim in the mornings? Millions of people dream about such an opportunity?
A: Well, I prefer to swim in a pool, but I like to walk on the beach.

Q:Why are you voluntarily depriving yourself of almost everything for gymnastics? Does the Gym God require these sacrifices?
A: If you want to achieve something and not just do your time, of course. You asked me whether my life has changed after I moved to Azerbaijan, and I said it hasn't, but, rather,  I have changed drastically. In these two years I became a completely different person. I got read of all the bad habits, learned to treat my work, other people and myself differently. If I stayed the same as I came to Baku, I'm afraid no one would tolerate me - not the coaches, not the federation. I'm self-centered and have a quick temper.

Q: Is that so? I consider you fearless, firs of all, if you're able to admit such flaws publicly.
A: It's not my place to say whether I'm fearless or not. I can only add that the last bad habit I still have is laziness. I have to fight with it constantly, it doesn't give up easy. he only way to overcome it is to work, to make myself work even when I don't want to. My coaches help me with that a lot, I'm very grateful to them. It's hard to make myself work. Right now my coaches busy with a seminar, so I'm training alone. I come to the gym, do everything I'm supposed to, but I still feel like I don't work enough, it would be better to have someone to watch over me, to have the "carrot and stick" reinforcement.

Q: Your tattoos are very impressive. You have this intricate art on your hands and some mysterious writings on your chest and back, which are hard to decipher on the photos.
A: I have a shark tattooed on one arm and Zeus the Thunderer on another. The writings... Each of them has a story. On the chest I have "It's all in the hands of God" in English. I got this tattoo after the infamous team final at the London Olympics when the Ukrainian team got robbed of the medal. That was when I realized that not everything can be controlled by a man and I have to learn to accept it. The other writing, on my back, says "If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you". It's a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, but for me it symbolizes a very important internal victory. A victory over alcohol. That's a very serious problem, more people suffer from alcoholism that you ever thought. I overcame it four years ago, it wasn't my fault that I had it, I was genetically prone to alcoholism. But for the past four years I've been free.

Q: That's another unexpected and very brave confession that not many people would dare to make... Tell me, Oleg, do you feel extra responsibility as a foreigner brought to Azerbaijan specifically to win medals?
A: You know, I haven't felt as a foreigner here even for a single day! I've emphasized from the very beginning that Azerbaijan is my country. I didn't decide to represent Azerbaijan because of money as some people in Ukraine are saying. First of all, I was offered such  conditions for growth and progress in gymnastics which I never had back home. Azerbaijan has amazing facilities, great opportunities, they do everything for a gymnast so that I can progress and achieve results. Our gym in Ukraine was simply dangerous to train at. There were old apparatuses that could collapse any time. Once my foot got stuck between the mats and I got seriously injured. Guys had to buy their own tape...

Q: And at the European games you gave 4 bags of tape to your former teammates...
A: I helped because I could, it was nothing for me.

Q: Oleg Verniaev is the only one from your amazing and unfairly robbed London team who stayed in Ukraine. Kuksenkov left for Russia, you - for Azerbaijan. However, looks like you're all still in touch?
A: I'm not in touch with anyone in Ukraine except for my mom. She's the only person I have left there. I'm not on social networks and don't keep contact with anyone. I have my quiet family life in Baku, that's enough for me.

Q: Family life? You mean, you got married in Azerbaijan?
A: Not yet, but I met my love in Baku.

Q: As far as I know, Azerbaijanis are very strict about relationships, they think that you first have to meet the family, to ask the parents for permission to date their daughter. Did you have to do it?
A: No, I didn't. My girlfriend is very modern, she has a US choreographer certification, she studied in US, lived in St Petersburg. That's how we met: when I moved to Baku she worked at the gymnastics federation here. She didn't think that meeting her family is necessary.

Q: Is your unwillingness to keep contact with anyone besides your mom and your girlfriend just part of your personality? And why are you staying of the social networks? Many gymnasts are now posting videos of the new elements they're learning, so it's both trendy and helps with curiosity regarding how other gymnasts train.
A: First of all, there might be consequences of posting those videos. There are gymnasts that will immediately try to copy you, and, if it's a new element, they can even compete it before you! So, being active on social networks is not without its cost. It's just not for me. I prefer that as few people as possible know what I'm doing at the gym, just the coaches that work with me. I try to protect myself from any unnecessary information. For example, I didn't want to know in advance who was competing at the European games and who was replaced. If my coach tried to tell me, I asked him not to. The same goes for the Islamic Solidarity Games [*a multi-sport event for athletes from Muslim countries in Baku this month, will include WAG and MAG competitions*]. This competition means a lot to me, because it's at home, in front of the home crowd, so that means extra responsibility.

Q: Your career is a mix of good a bad periods. You become a European champion, then, after two years,  have another row of wins at the European Games and the World Championships. But the next, Olympic, year is bad for you again. You became the first Azeri gymnasts to make an AA final at the Olympics, but, I guess, you expected to do better in Rio.
A: Yes, I expected more, but it didn't happen. Or, rather, the preparation for the Olympics didn't work out the way I wanted it to. We parted ways with my coach, Pavel Netreba - I don't want to go into the details. Right now I have new coaches and it's a new quad, Tokyo is ahead. Let the past be the past.

Russian Championships - list of competitors

It's less than a month till Russian Championships and we now have a list of competitors.
The list is in Russian, so here I'm listing notable WAG competitors in English for those of you who can't read Cyrillic alphabet. In bold are the national team members.
Paseka is listed as a competitor, which is a surprise as she only recently started training. I guess, she'll maybe do a vault and that's it.
Afanasyeva isn't on the list and I don't think she's been training after the wedding (she definitely wasn't at the Round Lake). I personally suspect that she's either already pregnant or will be soon and we shouldn't expect her to return, but who knows.
Nabieva, although on the NT reserve, isn't on the list either. It's weird, because Nabieva always tries to help her city place well at the regionals (I think it affects their funding). There were rumors she's injured, so that might be the reason.
We won't see Komova, Kharenkova, Perebinosova or Sokova (what's happening with her? Is she even training anymore or her focus is now solely on youtube videos?), but there will be Sosnitskaya.

Anastasia Sidorova
Darya Skrypnik
Darya Elizarova (r)
Evgenia Shelgunova
Angelina Melnikova
Elizaveta Kochetkova (r)
Darya Spiridonova
Seda Tutkhalian
Alla Sosnitskaya
Maria Paseka
Elena Eryomina
Liliya Akhaimova
Anastasia Cheong
Anastasia Ilyankova
Yulia Biryulya
Eleonora Afanasyeva
Polina Fyodorova (r)
Anastasia Dmitrieva (r)
Natalya Kapitonova
Olga Bikmurzina

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sazonova on her life and training in Iceland

Today I came across this interview with Irina Sazonova, the Russian gymnast who now represents Iceland. Apparently, the interview was published before the Olympic Games, but I haven't seen it then.
The interview's in Russian, of course, so here's the summary of the main points.
Irina was born in Vologda (northwestern Russia, 450 km from Moscow) and trained there most of her childhood. Later she moved to St Petersburg. She represented Russia at the 2011 University Games. Her coach in St Petersburg was offered a job in Iceland and asked Irina to come with her to train there. A year later the coach left, but Irina decided to stay. She wanted to try something new and she was aware that her level of gymnastics is not high enough to compete on the national team, so the move seemed like a good idea. Her family is still in Vologda and they ask sometimes whether she wants to return, but she doesn't see any prospects for a gymnastics career there. She already feels like a real Icelander.
At first, the language barrier and the lack of friends were hard for her. Now she speaks Icelandic on a basic level needed in daily life, but still asks for an interpreter when she gives interviews to the local press. She's now engaged, her fiancee is also a Russian living in Iceland, she met him there.
Normally, getting Icelandic citizenship takes 8 years, but for her the process was expedited and she got the citizenship only after 3 years of living in Iceland. During these three years she was competing for her club and the national team staff realized she could be useful on the team. She became the first gymnast to represent Iceland at the Olympics.
The state pays for the gymnasts to go to the Olympics, but for smaller tournaments, like World Cups, the team needs to look for private sponsors. Gymnasts also don't get paid for being on the team, so Irina had to hold three jobs while training for the Olympics - she was a kids' coach at her club and delivered pizza (she doesn't say what was her third job). Closer to the Olympics she only had one job? as a coach, because she couldn't manage the increasing training hours and so many jobs.
The training conditions in the gym are very good, much better than the ones she had in Vologda where the gym was so tiny she had to start running for vault from outside the room. They also didn't have a gymnastics floor in Vologda. She says, however, that recently there was a new gym built in Vologda, so now it must be better.
She then talks a bit about how Icelanders love football, how high are the prices compared to Russia.
She is apparently very popular in Iceland, people recognize her on the street, she gives interviews to newspapers and tv.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Melnikova's interview and other news

It's finally getting closer to the beginning of the new season and we're getting some more news and interviews. Komova is allowed to start training, her spinal fracture sorta healed, even though she's still in pain. Apparently, the pain won't go away, so she'll need to decide whether training through pain is worth it. Judging by the interview, her dad is so over it and wants her to forget about competing and start coaching, but that's not what Vika's planning.

Regionals are happening all over Russia, since the Nationals are in a month. Gymnasts on the national team (not reserves) are generally allowed to skip regionals, but they can participate if they want to - to try out new programs, get used to the competitions etc. The Volga region competition was held this week and Kapitonova won AA with 53.7, followed by Shelgunova (51.76) and Fedorova (51.63). The scores aren't very promising, but it's only beginning of February, it's B team, and Russians are generally a hot mess this time of the year. Although, Shelgunova normally pretends to be a gymnastics superhero at competitions like this and gets unbelievable scores. I guess, this year she decided to start being a hot mess slightly earlier in the season.

Angelina Melnikova gave a TV intervew at the beginning of January. Here's a summary.
She was absolutely terrified during the Olympics, especially in the team final, when she started the first on the first apparatus. When she starts the routine she's calming herself by the fact that it will soon be over, so she won't need to suffer and be scared for long.
Her day at the Round Lake goes like this: first training, breakfast, second training, rest, lunch, school (she's still in high school) and the last training of the day. Training takes 7-8 hours per day. Before competitions the main focus is on doing full routines and trying to commit them to muscle memory so that during the competitions they would be able to perform without thinking. In the off-season they mostly work on learning new elements.
Her favorite apparatus is beam. She likes understanding how the movements on beam work and why she makes mistakes and when she figures out how to do stuff correctly all the time, it makes her happy.
When she goes out to eat, she mostly orders salads. When she's at the Round Lake, she barely eats, but at home she gets bored and starts eating a lot. She tries to eat healthy, but doesn't always succeed, especially when she's on vacation. At the Round Lake she mostly eats porridge for breakfast. Lunch can very and they try to eat as little as possible for dinner. Angelina says she's generally not allowed to eat pastry and sweets, only on vacations.

My comment: Russians are big on eating hot porridge, called "kasha", for breakfast - dry cereals aren't very popular. Kasha can be made from different types of grains - buckweat, millet, oats, semolina, rice etc. There's a saying about someone who doesn't have a lot of energy or isn't very strong - "He didn't eat enough kasha". It's believed that to have enough energy for a whole day you should eat a bowl of kasha for breakfast. I've personally never even tried dry cereals before I moved to Israel and, after a brief period of fascination with them, I returned to eating kasha for breakfast.
Regarding not eating dinner, there's another saying in Russian: "Eat your breakfast yourself, share your lunch with a friend and give the dinner to your enemy". It's believed not to be healthy to eat a big dinner.

She doesn't have big goals like "make the Worlds team" or "win X competition", her goals are small like "compete X element without mistakes" or "to not fall during X routine". She's afraid that if she had a big goal and didn't achieve it her disappointment would prevent her from doing gymnastics after that.