Sunday, April 30, 2017

Denis Abliazin on recovery, upgrades and being a father

Denis Abliazin missed Euros, but he's preparing for the Worlds Championship and trying to combine training with being a new father. He talked to Penza Vzglyad about his recovery from a broken leg and potential upgrades.

Q: European Championship which started on 19/04 will not see two leaders of the Russian national team - Abliazin and Mustafina. Each has their reasons: Aliya is expecting a child and Denis had to take a break because of his old injuries flaring up after the Olympics.

A: Yeah, all the issues are my souvenir from Rio. We decided I won't got to Euros even before the New Year. The break in my right leg didn't heal, so we were waiting till it heals in order to start proper recovery and training. Right now I'm more or less healthy. Soon the serious training will start, long training camps, a lot of repetitions. I think I'll be well prepared by the Worlds.

This year's World championship is "early" - it starts in the beginning of October, almost a month earlier than usual. The preparation plan is all figured out. Denis is planning to give a fight at the Russian Cup in August and he might even participate in two World Cups.
Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm currently training new elements and combinations. I've already learned them, so now I'm training the execution so that in May I will come to the training camp prepared. There is enough time for me to recover slowly, train all the combinations and then go to competitions.

Q: Did you make any significant changes to your routines?

A: I've changed the floor and the rings somewhat. I'm also learning a new vault, but it's still not ready. I'm going to keep my old second vault for now. Currently, I'm training about 2-3 hours per day, if everything goes well. If it doesn't, then I have to do more repetitions. Actually, with the new code, I didn't have to change any of my routines expect the rings. On rings, it was enough to add one element to have a medal-worthy routine. But we decided to make upgrades everywhere so that I would be among the leaders.

Q: These days Abliazin is training in Penza, the city that, according to him, will always stay his home. He feels different here.

A: It's enough to go home for a week to fell rested. Even though I'm also working here without breaks. At least, I don't have such a strict schedule here, I can always move training time around slightly. I need a change of scenery to clear my head.

Q: How else do you clear youre head?

A: I usually play computer games, Counter Strike Go, or football on a console. But I'm not playing it for hours, I can easily get up and turn it off.

Q: So, you don't use any other sports to distract yourself from gymnastics? Swimming, for example?

A: I don't really like to swim, but I do like to ride my bike. Biking is also good for strengthening the ligaments and muscles in my legs. There's nothing like biking. That's my advice to everyone - bike as much as you can.

Q: on Januray 21, Ksenia Semenova, Abliazin's wife, gave birth to a boy. They called him Yaroslav. They didn't spend much time choosing the name, since they really liked this old and proud Russian name. Denis took his wife to the hospital, but he could only hold his son after they were released because of a quarantine.

A: That's so cool to have a son who will look up to me growing up. I will try to work harder because of him. It's too early to speculat whether he'll also be an athlete, though.

Q: By the way, Yaroslav will be seeing his parents' medals all the time: you parents mounted a special medal stand on the wall in their apartment. Ksenia's father helped to install it.

A: I'd do it myself of course, by I was already in Penza by that time. I'm helping Ksenia as much as I can, but I'm also training a lot right now. If I were retired, it would be different, of course, I'd do everything at home.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Melnikova on Euros, her floor, and how she just wants to stay home and sleep in

Melnikova gave an interview to Marafon, sports TV show. Here's the summary.

She says that she was very tired after Rio and really wanted to take some time off, but she had to return to competitions almost immediately. She couldn't seem to get it together and made mistakes in competitions all the time. It was so hard that she was crying a lot and asking to give her a break, she didn't even want to train for a while. Her coaches and teammates helped her through it and she was able to start enjoying training again.
At the same time, she believes the four competitions she went to this year before Euros helped her to gain experience and become more confident. She was extremely nervous competing in Stuttgart, then it was a bit easier in Jesolo, in London, and by Euros she wasn't afraid to compete anymore.

There are rumors that several national team gymnasts left their previous coaches and are now training with Grebenkin as their personal coaches (I've heard this about Spiridonova and Melnikova, but there might be others). Ishkova and Denisevich are still listed on the Russian artistic gymnastics federation website as her coaches, but the website often lists old information. In the video, though, Ishkova is introduced as Melnikova's former coach, so I guess the rumors are true. 

Ishkova, Gelya's former coach, clearly disapproves of Melnikova going to so many competitions before Euros, saying that Gelya was completely exhausted by the end. She also disapproves of Gelya competing two vaults already because she believes the second vault isn't ready yet.

When asked about not making the all-around final at Euros (she finished behind Eremina and Kapitonova), she said it doesn't make her very sad and it's not the end of the world. She is always surprised by her falls because physically she is ready and doesn't fall in training. However, she is afraid of falling in competitions and thinks that's why she falls. She started getting afraid when she got injured before the Olympics and it's been hard for her to overcome the fear.

Her new floor was choreographed by Olga Burova. Gelya was at first afraid she wouldn't be able to do both complicated and physically demanding choreo and the tumbling, so learning the routine required a lot of repetitions. She likes this routine very much. In the EF after her third tumbling pass she realized she's in for a medal, so she tried really hard to stick her last landing.

After Euros Melnikova finally went home to Voronezh for 5 days. She hasn't been home for several months. And during these 5 days, she is mostly studying because she needs to prepare for several exams (she's in 10th grade right now).

She is dreaming of just staying home for two days, doing nothing and sleeping in. Clearly, it's not happening, because next week she's going back to the Round Lake.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beliavskiy on Euros and kidney stones

David Beliavskiy talked to MK on his pommel horse win at Euros and how kidney stones prevented him from training properly.
David had to miss a week of training before the Russian championship because of the kidney stones, and then he trained through the pain. Sometimes the pain was so bad he had to be taken to ER by ambulance. Then he had a hand injury that also stalled his training process.
He didn't expect to win pommel horse and he was very surprised. He knew, though, that parallel bars are not yet completely ready, so his results were expected.
He plans to return to all-around, because it's boring for him to be an event specialist.

Valentina continues to trash everyone including Komova

Valentina is on a media spree continuing to trash all the girls on the national team except for Eremina, who is currently her "little ray of sunshine" (I wonder how long will it last? Till the next competition in which Lena falls and stays out of medals? Till Aliya comes back?)
Now she has some more bad things to say about Melnikova, Kapitonova, and even Komova (who isn't even currently on the main national team and haven't been to Round Lake in forever).

Valentina Rodionenko talked to MK about Euros and the perspectives for Russian WAG.
Here's the translation of her interview:

What were our goals for these Euros and for 2017 in general, the first year of the new quad? Well, of course, we were going to have a completely new national team – absolutely. To say there are tensions in the team right now would be nothing. Yes, we could bring someone else to Euros, but Seda Tutkhalian is slightly injured right now, and there are certain issues with Daria Spiridonova. I’m talking here about experienced gymnasts, the ones who’s been to the Olympics. But they’re also still young, they haven’t accomplished everything they could yet.
Of course, in Romania, our bets were on Melnikova who was supposed to compete at the highest level. I’ll say it right away: this competition proved us wrong. We can’t understand what is going on with Melnikova. It’s already her fourth competition this year and she performed poorly at every one of them, she was never able to achieve the results she was supposed to. Maybe, it’s psychological. When we ask her what happened she only says: I don’t know. And that worries us.
Next is Natasha Kapitonova. She has a difficult personality, she is quite reserved and guarded it leads to lack of understanding and communication between her and the coaching staff. She doesn’t tell us how she feels, how to do some things with her in a better way. Yes, they’re all still kids in a way, but in our sport, they need to grow up fast. So, we need to consider whether we are going to continue working with this athlete. Now, after we’re back home, we’re going to make decisions about every of the WAG athletes. The worst thing is that they have the potential for winning, but they fall apart in competitions.
The only athlete we’re happy with, even though there were fails there, too, is Eremina. We can already say that this girl can show the highest level of gymnastics. We haven’t had such a unique gymnast in a long time. She’s showing us the well-known Soviet style of gymnastics. Exactly what we want. It’s such a high level, her every move is precise. Look at her on floor, she starts and finishes every move exactly to the music. You know, it’s now the bane of gymnastics everywhere that when gymnasts do floor, the music is by itself and the gymnast is by herself, they don’t connect.

I’ve heard that during Euros Komova claimed she’s back again. I can tell her one thing: we’ll be happy to take her if she’s really back. But I don’t believe she’s going to work hard enough to produce the results we want from her. We’ve been waiting for her a long time, so let’s not put our hopes up. Let’s wait and see.

Nagorny and Dalaloyan on Match TV

Nikita Nagorny and Artur Dalaloyan were on Match TV today talking about Euros.
Artur thinks they could've done better at Euros and haven't yet peaked.
Nikita is really nice praising Artur and saying how much it means to become second to Verniaev, who is an amazing competitor.
For Nikita, his bronze on parallel bars means more than any gold, because it's not his strong apparatuses. He was European champion on vault and floor in the past, but he can't compete them right now because of his injury. He never expected to medal on other apparatuses and it's exciting for him to realize he might be good on something other than floor and vault.
Nikita says he was struggling with motivation before Euros, not following the training schedule and just coming to the gym whenever he wanted. He was told he'd be suspended if he continued this and only then he realized he really wanted to continue training and he's only at the beginning of his career. He started training really hard between Russian Champs and Euros and got mad at himself for losing so much time on not training properly before.
The main goal for both of them right now to prepare for the Worlds in Montreal. They will only have two competitions before the Worlds - Russian Cup and the Universiade. 

Dalaloyan on being thrown off the national team in the past

Did you know that in the past Artur Dalaloyan, our new European silver medalist in AA, was thrown off the national team? Apparently, there were disciplinary issues and general quarrels with his coach. He doesn't specify what were the issues, but there were serious enough for him to be suspended. At first, he decided that he doesn't care and can finally live a normal life and do whatever he wants. After a couple of months, he started missing gymnastics and realized he was wrong. He made amends with the coaches and the national team administration and they let him back. He says the experience made him grow up and he now has a new appreciation for gymnastics and, especially, for his coach.

Verniaev's coach reflecting on Euros

Gennady Sartinsky, the personal coach of Oleg Verniaev, gave an interview about Oleg's performance at Euros.
He talked about how Oleg had basically no time to prepare for Euros, as he was sick with strep throat between Stuttgart and London and had only three days of preparation between coming back from London and leaving for Cluj. According to Sartinsky, the Russian coaches and gymnasts knew about Oleg's health issue and counted on him to have a bad performance at Euros hoping that Russian gymnasts would be able to beat him.
One of the reasons Oleg keeps going to all these competitions is publicity and promoting gymnastics in Ukraine. Every time he wins a medal the news outlets in Ukraine write about it, which brings more attention to gymnastics (and, hopefully, more funding, as a result). Between the competitions or when no medals are won, there is no coverage of gymnastics, media simply forget about it.
He says the first day of the event finals was especially hard on Oleg because he had no time to recover after the all-around final. The second day was slightly easier, because Oleg only performed three competition routines the day before. Competing in all of the event finals was quite complicated since Oleg needed to warm up between them, but he also needed to participate in the medal ceremonies instead of using this time to warm up. He also, apparently, doesn't really eat right before or during the competition, so by the time the EFs were over on each day, he was absolutely starving.
By Worlds, Oleg is going to upgrade all routines except for vault and rings. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sokova on ending her career

Ekaterina Sokova made a video explaining why she retired from artistic gymnastics.
She has been doing gymnastics for 12 years and has been on the national team for 4 of these years.
In February 2016 her hip joint started hurting and she gradually stopped training because of pain. She could barely walk, so training was out of the question. She did MRI in April 2016 and learned she had a fracture of the femoral neck (part of the hip joint). She was still trying to train for 2,5 months - doing regular conditioning despite having to use crutches for walking. Then, in the summer of 2016, she got a bit better and started doing some tumbling. However, she was still in a lot of pain, she says she was walking like an old woman. She was very frustrated both with the pain and with the reactions of the people around her who told her she simply needs "to stop limping" and that it's all in her head. From July to December 2016 the pain never stopped and only got worse. She couldn't even sleep because of the pain. For some reason, her coaches didn't take her complaints about the pain seriously and didn't send her for a follow-up MRI for 8 months. She seems to be very pissed at her coach and the national team management for that. In December 2016 Katya's mom refused to let her go to the training camp at the Round Lake and took her to the doctors to do a proper check up and MRI. Then, in January, mom took her to Moscow to a renown doctor. The doctor said she can't do gymnastics anymore. Turned out she had arthrosis of the hip joint and it was so bad she needed a hip replacement. At 16 years old. It was also to be her first surgery ever. She says she and her mom cried rivers in the doctor's office because the news was so shocking. She expected to stop doing gymnastics because she felt something is seriously wrong with her body, but she never thought she'd need a hip replacement at 16. She didn't want to speak publicly about the surgery until now, despite a lot of people asking her why she stopped doing gymnastics. It was very hard for her to process and she was depressed for a few months. She says that if she were treated properly from the very beginning, she would be able to keep her joint. She blames her coach and the national team management for needing this surgery. In 15-20 years she will need to replace the prosthetic joint she has now and she's "thrilled" about this as well. In the days leading to the surgery, she didn't really care about ending her gymnastics career, she only cared whether she'll be able to walk unassisted like a regular person. Doctors said she'll be able to walk and even maybe run recreationally and do fitness exercises. She won't be able to take up any professional sport ever again. She says that even she could return to gymnastics, she wouldn't.
She had a surgery, has a new hip joint now, and needs to walk on crutches for 6 weeks, before she'll be able to walk again. She was in intensive care for two days after the surgery and hospitalized for another 8 days after that. Turned out her "bad" leg was 1,5 cm shorter than the other one because of the hip issues. Now her legs are the same length.
She tells people to listen to their bodies and insist on getting proper assessment and treatment because their health is the most important thing. She hopes this video might help other people in similar situations.
While she gained a lot doing gymnastics, there are many things she is sad about, like not going to a regular school, not having any friends in her hometown (and outside of gymnastics), not spending enough time with her baby brother. She doesn't regret doing gymnastics, but she is glad to start a new chapter in her life. She finishes: "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, even though gymnastics apparently tried to kill me".

Oleg is only getting 10 days of 'vacation' in May

We all know that Oleg is exhausted and badly needs rest, what's with competing non-stop for several years now.
He even said in an interview a couple of months ago that he'd go on a real vacation after Euros. Well, he wished.
In a new interview, Oleg says that the only vacation he'll get will be 10 days in Israel in the end of May, but this will actually be for physical therapy (and hanging out with Shatilov and his dogs, I guess). Right now he's going to compete in three Bundesliga meets. Then, after his rest/therapy sessions in Israel, he's preparing for the University games and Worlds, of course.
His preparation for Euros didn't go well as he had a bad case of strep throat in Stuttgart and couldn't really train for two whole weeks because of it.
After the qualifications, he thought of scratching from some of the event finals (he qualified for all of them), but then decided to do everything. Except that by the horizontal bar final he was absolutely spent, so that led to two falls.
He's looking forward to compete with Uchimura again!

More nonsense from Valentina

Do you enjoy reading Valentina's verbal diarrhea she calls "interviews"? If yes, here's some more for you. I don't have the strength to translate all the stupid things she says, but I'll give you a summary.
Valentina says she's not surprised with the results as the current national team lacks depth. She is only happy with how Eremina competed and calls her their ray of sunshine and last hope (previously she similarly praised Komova, Grishina and Melnikova, but they all fell out of grace). She claims that Eremina has one of the best floor routines in the world (everyone just fell from their seats reading this). She especially praises Eremina's modesty and lack of "diva behavior" and thinks Eremina will become the new leader of the Russian team (bye bye Gelya, I guess?). She thinks the rest of the girls were too full of themselves and is angry with Paseka for going to Euros instead of letting someone else go (because, obviously, Paseka simply decided to go all by herself, she didn't need the federation's and the coaches' permission or anything). Valentina's like 'yeah, Melnikova took gold on floor, ok, fine, but what about her HORRIBLE qualifications and vault final? We don't care about her gold medal, she's trash from now on, Eremina is our everything'. Also, the team won't get any rest (especially not Gelya, who didn't deserve any) and their next training camp starts on Sunday 30.04.

Monday, April 24, 2017

After Euros: round up of news and interviews in Russian media

In the news from Russia:

Emin Garibov has officially retired. He was toying with the idea of retirement for some time now, while taking on more official roles on the national team.
He says that after watching Euros he realized there is too much competition right now and his health will not allow him to return to the competitive level. He will work with the national team as the marketing manager.

Angelina Melnikova was so devastated after qualifications and the vault final, she did not want to compete in the floor final. She expected to do poorly again, so, at the end, she stopped caring about her placement and just competed for herself. Apparently, this approach worked. This gold inspires her to continue training and improving.

Valentina Rodionenko was really not happy with the results and the coaching team is going to have a discussion about it when they get back home. She's worried that if the girls can't keep up even with the European competitors, they'll have no chance at Worlds.

Andrei Rodionenko is praising Eremina noting that she did very well for her first senior Euros.
He has, however, some harsh words about Paseka. He thinks Masha was not ready for Euros after just two months of training and, maybe, she shouldn't have been included on the team.
In an interview to Match TV he adds that they basically expected that Masha will easily win with her vault combination and they didn't know there will be so much competition in the vault final. He adds that Paseka's Olympic vaults were not enough for this final.
Which is actually not true, Paseka's Olympic vaults would've won here. Only she did Lopez instead of Cheng here and her Amanar in the vault final was poorly executed.
Rodionenko believes that new qualification rules for the Olympics make room for more event specialists and this will lead to more competition for the event medals. He feels that it's already started happening and there is already more competition on the rings and vault. Apparently, they had no idea about Coline Devillard's vaults and didn't expect for anyone to have higher vault difficulty than Paseka at Euros.  In general, he likes the new qualification rules and thinks it's going to be good for the sport.
He paid attention to Chinese and Japanese nationals and knows that the gymnasts there are very strong.
Russian gymnasts will get a very short break after Euros and will get back to training after that.
In the same tv feature, Artur Dalaloyan talks about his vault gold. He was sure he would do his triple twist well because he's been doing this vault forever. He was quite worried about his second vault, though (handspring double front pike), because it's relatively new for him and he made a mistake on it in qualifications. However, when he was preparing to run for the second vault he suddenly felt very confident about landing it.

Alfosov is very happy with MAG results, but, according to him, European medalists will have no priority when the Worlds team will be selected just because of their titles. They'll still need to be competitive and go through the selection process.

In Ukrainian news:
Oleg is super tired what with having no break after the Olympics and this exhaustion lead him to the falls on horizontal bar. Fortunately, he's not injured. Israeli team doctor and physical therapist Adam Badir was helping Oleg throughout the championships. Oleg's been treated by Dr. Badir several times in the past and next month Oleg will come to Israel for physical therapy. Oleg says he's already planning for Tokyo and can't relax because there is so much competition right now, especially from younger athletes. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eremina talks about AA and UB finals

Eremina finished 4th in the AA final at Euros and got a silver medal in the bars final yesterday.
Eremina seems like such a clear-headed person, none of that usual Russian nonsense about bad judging.
She believes her AA performance was far from the best, she would grade herself a C- on it because there were issues on all four apparatuses. She thinks a mistake on her toe-on full in bars lead to getting silver instead of gold, but she's not sad. She really wanted to get a medal, any kind, so silver makes her happy and motivated to do better next time.
Grebyonkin is just happy that Eremina's Nabieva to Pak is finally solid.

What's going on with Melnikova?

Angelina Melnikova was the biggest hope of the Russian gymnastics federation to medal at 2017 Euros. Since Mustafina is pregnant, Komova is only beginning her comeback, Seda is still unstable (and also currently injured), Eremina is a new senior and only 15 years old and other all-arounders simply don't have enough difficulty to medal in major competitions, Melnikova was the IT girl.
Melnikova returned to competitions in October despite still being injured and continued to upgrade while competing almost non-stop in the next half a year. She got a really nice new floor routine and added a second vault.  The Rodionenkos' rationale for the constant competitions was that Gelya needed more experience to become solid. Well, look how it turned out for her. While at the beginning of the 2017 Melnikova looked somewhat improved a combination of Stuttgart World Cup, Jesolo, and London Wold Cup leading to Euros basically killed her.
Apparently, she injured her back during floor in qualifications - that was after her falls from bars and beam. Despite this injury the coaches allowed/made her compete in the vault final where she finished last.
Andrei Rodionenko even admitted that it was a mistake to send Gelya to all the competitions! Grebyonkin who seems to be the voice of reason on the Russian team said he's not surprised with Gelya's performance. According to him, it's normal when there's a decline after giving your best in the Olympics and Gelya just needs rest, especially since she was injured in Rio and got injured again now. He also thinks that this competition experience will make Gelya hungrier to win. I bet if Grebyonkin was in charge instead of Rods, he wouldn't send Gelya to so many competitions.
Gelya herself is just devastated. She cried in the arena after qualifications and the vault final. She also posted apologies to her fans on the instagram. She says she's not sure why she can't do her best in competition and supposes it might be psychological. She was physically ready for Euros and did everything just fine in training, but something didn't click during the actual competition. She also says that coming back after the Olympics, especially coming back from her injury, was extremely hard and at one point during the Fall she simply didn't want to train at all. However, now she is extremely motivated.

Verniaev, Dalaloyan and Rodionenko talk MAG AA

Russian sports TV channel Match TV sent a well-known sports journalist Dmitry Zanin to cover artistic gymnastics. Yesterday after MAG AA he made short interviews with Oleg Verniaev, Artur Dalaloyan and Andrei Rodionenko.

Here's a short summary of the interviews.
Oleg is asked whether the win was easy for him as he was everyone's favorite to win gold. Oleg admits that he was extremely tired, especially after the first two apparatuses, so he basically continued competing on sheer will and determination. He was checking Dalaloyan's scores and knew that he needed to not make any mistakes after floor. He realized that without mistakes he would win.

Zanin asks Artur Dalaloyan if he was expecting to medal in AA. Artur says his main goal was to compete well and to show everyone that he is up there on the international level. He thinks that his silver medal was well-deserved and he needs to work harder if he wants to get a gold. He never gives up after a fall because gymnastics is unpredictable and there's almost always still a chance. So, even after a fall he tries to gather himself and fight till the end.
He's asked whether it was hard to give 100% till the end and Zanin mentions that Aliya said on the broadcast that Dalaloyan used to not have enough stamina to finish strong in AA. Artur laughs and says he has  proved he has enough stamina now.
Zanin asks him how Artur can calm himself despite the lack of experience and young age and Artur retorts that he's not that young anymore, he's 21 now!

Then Andrei Rodionenko is interviewed. He's asked whether he could predict the results and tells that at the beginning of the quad all results are unpredictable and everyone tries new things and sees how they go. Dalaloyan became a big discovery for the Russian team as an all-arounder which makes him extremely valuable because strong male all-arounders are rare.
He's asked whether Dalaloyan could win without the mistake on the pommel horse and answers that there's no conditional mood in gymnastics, whatever happened happened and that's it.
Zanin asks whether Verniaev's scores were fair and Rodionenko refuses to talk about it saying that he's not discussing judging and scores.
They plan to try all the gymnasts on the national team and see who they'll take to Worlds, but the team will probably be different from the one at Euros.
He praises competitors from the other countries, saying that the competitor from Cyprus is absolutely fantastic.
He is asked about Melnikova's poor performance in qualification. He admits that they sent her to too many competitions. The reasoning was that she needed competitive experience, but they ended up overworking her and she's too tired now. Apparently, Melnikova also  got slightly injured/sore during floor because of a bad landing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Komova's interview: I'm healthy and I'm coming back!

Komova gave an interview to Sport Express right before the European Championships.
She talks about the prospects of the current team at Euros and about how her own training is going.

Q: The post-Olympics European Championships are special in many ways – there are many newcomers on all the teams, new routines… What are your expectations from this competition?
A: I went through the same thing after the London Olympics. There were few veterans left on our team, many newcomers, and we ourselves suddenly became veterans. I’m looking forward to see our new girls. Elena Eremina who is 15 year old hasn’t competed in any major senior competitions yet, I’m curious about how she’ll do here. Natasha Kapitonova is 16, she has slightly more experience, but not much. Angelina Melnikova went to the Olympics and she’s from my hometown. I’m going to cheer for all of them.

Q: People call Eremina the next gymnastics superstar.
A: She’s good. She’s very clean technically, has a good level of difficulty. Her best apparatus is bars, I guess, even though she also does all-around. But it’s too early for predictions regarding Lena. She’s still so small, light, it’s easy for her to do all the elements. Let’s see what happens when she grows up a bit.

Q: The two-time Olympic medalist  Maria Paseka is your age and she’s the only experienced member of this team…
A: She’s also my good friend. She went through tough time in preparation for these Championships. She had a lot of back issues and had to work through pain. I called her when she was already in Romani, but she couldn’t talk. I understand and I wish her the best luck.

Q: Is it foolish to talk about medal prospects when the team is full of new faces?
A: Well, the girls hope for medals, of course. There’s no point to train otherwise. Also, it’s important to make judges like you, make them remember your routines.

Q: So, it’s good, then, that our youngsters start at Euros and not at Worlds where the stakes are higher?
A: Well, it doesn’t really matter either way – at both competitions you represent your country, so, at least, you have to compete decently. Euros are a bit easier in the sense that our primary competition – Americans and Chinese – are not there.

Q: What can you tell about the prospects of our men’s team?
A: Their team is also mostly new. I saw videos of Nagorny’s and Lankin’s routines and liked them. I think, now’s their time. Dalaloyan and Lankin are extremely motivated and now upgraded to the necessary difficulty. These guys used to be the B team athletes and now they’re on the A team.

Q: Is it true that you got a dog for your win at the 2010 Euros?
A: My parents found a way to motivate me. I really wanted a dog and they promised to buy it to me, but with certain conditions. Right now Kutya is staying with my parents. I’d really like to have her with me, but it’s impossible to keep a dog with all the training camps.

Q: You mentioned training camps. Does it mean you’re back in training?
A: Yes, my doctors gave a permission. I started slowly coming back, I’m training at the local gym now. If everything goes right, I want to go to the Round Lake after Euros and show what I can do.

Q: So, you’re planning on competing during the whole quad including the Tokyo Olympics?
A: I really hope so.

Q: You missed the Rio Olympics because of your back problems. How did you manage to fix it?
A: I went to Germany last summer, they diagnosed me with a stress fracture in my spine. I was in treatment for 8 months – took medication, did physical therapy, went to Germany for follow-ups several times. At the end, the German doctors allowed me to come back to training with only a few limitations. There are some exercises that I shouldn’t do, but there are also some that are very beneficial for my back. Overall, I’m healthy.

Q: Were you ever in doubt whether you should come back to sport after such a long break and such a difficult injury?
A: I was, at first. But then, when I came to the gym and realized my back doesn’t hurt, it was… just wow! I suddenly could do the things I wasn’t able to do for a long time because of my back pain. So, I gradually got used to the training. My coach is often travelling to competitions with other gymnasts, so then my dad replaces him. I really hope I’ll soon be working with the rest of the girls and will fight to make the national team.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Aliya Mustafina - radio interview

Aliya is giving a live interview on SportsFM radio on 14.04.
I'm live blogging the main points here:

Aliya’s talking about her cat Lisa. The cat is the boss in their family and keeps her company when Alexey, her husband, if away.
She’s mostly focusing on her studies right now, she’s getting a BA in gymnastics coaching and is supposed to finish right now. This program was the easiest to combine with training, so she decided to study there even though she doesn’t want to be a coach. And she thinks it’ll help her to earn money while she’s figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She believes she’s too gentle to be a coach, because in order to raise champions the coaches have to be tough on the gymnasts.
Aliya’s favorite football team is Spartak. She would want to visit their next game, but there are no tickets left.
She says that her husband offers her a lot of support. They can also understand the need to go to training camps and competitions.
She started getting really good at bars when Grebyonkin started training her on this apparatus and he was able to figure out the routines that worked her.
She doesn’t have favorite apparatuses or the ones she dislikes. Although, sometimes she doesn’t like a specific apparatus when something isn’t working out and she’s getting frustrated.
She doesn’t have any rituals before competitions and doesn’t really believe in good luck charms. The most important thing is to have the right attitude right before going on the apparatuses.
She was very nervous in London and wanted to please all the fans, and her mom said to her: compete just for me, don’t think about everyone else. So, she did.
In Rio, on the other hand, the fans helped to motivate her, because she thought she can’t give up now or do a bad routine because people count on her, so she has to compete well for them.
She liked the movie “Champions” (fictionalized story of Khorkina, Karelin and Popov) and thinks that there should be more movies about gymnasts.
She wanted to retire from gymnastics several times when she was mentally exhausted. Her main motivation for coming back was always the joy of gymnastics – she likes to compete.
She was the most tired in the summer of 2015 and was seriously thinking about retired. Going to classes in her university was a good distraction then and helped to get through this tough period.
She really wants to go to Tokyo.

She doesn’t know if there ever was a 3-time uneven bars Olympic champion, but if there wasn’t she hopes to be the first. She wouldn’t focus just on bars for Tokyo, though, she wants to do everything she can to help the team as well.

She knew that Simone Biles is unreachable at Rio, so she just tried to compete her best and not to think about her competitors.
She’s asked about doping allegations against Biles (hacked TUE for ADHD medication) and she’s very diplomatic about it, she says she thinks her competitors are honest and she’s trying not to read about any rumors or allegations.
She’s asked how her husband feels about the fact that she’s a more successful athlete. She says they don’t discuss this stuff and that he’s only at the beginning of his career, while she’s already close to the end.
Her favorite sport is rhythmic gymnastics.

Her dad was told that wrestlers’ daughters are slated to become good gymnasts, so that’s why he signed her up for gymnastics.

She’s asked whether she was nervous to meet Putin during the banquet for Russian Olympians and he seemed a regular person to her, she wasn’t particularly nervous to meet him.
She’s asked about her predictions for Russian girls at the Euros next week. She thinks that they have good medal chances, despite the fact that Paseka had a back injury.
The prize car, BMW, was too expensive to keep and, while she liked to drive it, she wanted something more sensible and got a Toyota instead.
She’s asked what are the hardest elements for her on bars and it’s Stalders.
Her favorite city is Krasnodar (where her husband is from).
She likes the Hunger Games movies.
Her favorite holiday is New Year.
She doesn’t like to eat onions.
She doesn’t know what she would do if she wasn’t an athlete and she doesn’t want to think about it.
She really liked Switzerland when she went to Euros last year, it was very beautiful.
She doesn’t have any hobbies.
She’s asked whether she’s expecting a boy or a girl, but she says it’s a secret.
She’s asked whether she ever tried to do a Korbut flip and says she never did, because it’s prohibited now.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Alexander Shatilov: “I’m used to breaking the stereotypes”

Here's a translation: 

Alexander Shatilov, the most decorated Israeli gymnast and one of the most famous participants of this year’s Ukraine International Cup, told Sport-Express Ukraine that being tall is not an obstacle for doing gymnastics and having a beard can even be helpful.

-        A: It’s the third time I’m competing at this tournament already – tells Alexander Shatilov. – I really liked it. In general, I like visiting Ukraine. I am in close touch with Ukrainian gymnasts, I even came to training camps at Koncha-Zaspa several times to train with the Ukrainian national team.

Q: They only installed new gymnastics equipment there last year. Were you fine training on the old equipment then?

A: Honestly, last time I’ve been to their camps was in 2006 and 2007. So, I started coming again when they got the new equipment.

Q: Last time you competed at the Cup, in March of 2009, you had almost the most successful season in your career – you won your first medals at Euros and Worlds that year.

A: Right, so I hope to continue this tradition. God willing, this year I’ll also be able to compete great at Euros and Worlds. But I don’t really believe in superstitions like that, frankly.

Q: So the fact that you competed under the number 13 here wasn’t a problem for you?

A: No. And, you know, in Judaism 13 is a lucky number.

Q: In 2009 you won the all-around at the Stella Zakharova Cup. As I Understand, now you rarely compete all-around?

A: Last time I competed all-around was at the test event in Rio. I did it in order to qualify to the Olympics. But besides qualifications like that I haven’t been really competing all-around since the London Olympics, I guess. I finished 12th there and, after that, decided to become a specialist in certain events. I’m not that young anymore, so it’s hard to train all 6 apparatuses properly.

Q: At the Baku World Cup in March you competed a floor routine with the 5.8 difficulty. Here your difficulty was 6.0. Are you going to continue upgrading and what changed in your routine because of the changes in the code?

A: The code has changed, but the gymnastics basically stayed the same, so I only needed to make little changes in the routine to adapt it to the new code. Yes, In Baku I competed 5.8 D and here I did 6.0. I’m improving! Maybe, I’ll be able to upgrade a bit more for the Euros. The problem is that I’m not always able to perform everything that I planned, often there are all sorts of issues. But, generally, I hope to upgrade to 6.3 difficulty.

Q: And what would you need to compete a 7.2 difficulty like Shirai did at the Melburn World Cup in February? To be born in Japan?

A: Not necessarily. There are guys from other countries who are closing the difficulty gap. But the Rio Olympics showed us that you can stay out of medals even with the highest difficulty if you make mistakes, that’s what happened with Shirai. Execution is very important in the current code. Judges are strict and take big deductions for mistakes. So, sometimes you can compensate for lower difficulty with really good execution.

Q: You won the high bar gold in Kyiv, but you only earned silver in the floor final – your favorite event. What were the issues with your routine?

A: Overall, I’m happy with my performance. I tried a new combination which I’m planning to compete at Euros. Of course, there were elements that I could do better, cleaner, tighter. Not a big deal, there’s stuff to work on. I’m not mad about losing to another Israeli gymnast (Artem Dolgopyat). I’m actually happy for him that he competed well. It’s nice to see that there’s a new generation of gymnasts in Israel who can give me some competition.

Q: What kind of conditions this new generation has? It’s just that in Ukraine even the national team could only get new equipment after Verniaev became European and World Champion. It would be interesting to compare the situation in Israel.

A: Gymnastics is a relatively young sport in Israel. There weren’t a lot of gymnasts before me that competed at the international events or at the Olympics. But we’re slowly improving, we have a lot of coaches from the former USSR. There isn’t an established system with boarding schools like in Ukraine, it’s mostly private clubs. But, generally, any regular Israeli citizen can afford to pay for gymnastics classes for their kid. If the kid starts to win, then the gymnastics federation and the national Olympic committee will take care of him. For example, I’m a professional athlete. For many years now I’ve been able to do just gymnastics and get paid for it well.

Q: As  I know, you whole family are athletes. Who has the most medals?

A: I do. *smiles* My dad was an equestrian, my mom did acrobatics and my brother played soccer. Right now he’s a coach at Maccabi Herzliya and works with 14-15 year olds.

Q: Can you also play soccer and ride horses?

A: I can do everything – I can also play tennis and soccer, and I like surfing and snowboarding.

Q: When do you have time for gymnastics?

A: *laughs* Well, when I have some spare time after all this stuff I’m going to the gym.

Q: There aren’t many 6 feet tall gymnasts like you. Obviously, such height can be an obstacle for many things in gymnastics. Can it be an advantage sometimes?

A: Well, the advantages are usually outside of gymnastics. But I’ve never complained about my height. It actually helped me. I first started catching the attention of judges and fans because I stood out as so tall. When I went to my first World Championship as a 19 years old everyone was surprised that such a tall gymnast is doing so well. I looked impressive and people remembered me. And I qualified to a final at my first Worlds, so I guess, my height has only been helping me in both gymnastics and regular life.

Q: So, when everyone got used to your height you decided to surprise people with something else and grew a beard?

A: I’m used to breaking stereotypes. Gymnastics is quite a conservative sport with certain aesthetics. But I though – if I already stand out because of my height, why not also stand out because of my beard?

Q: How else would you want to surprise judges and fans?

A: I think by winning gold. That would be the best thing.

Why Malaysia participated in Stella Zakharova cup

A Ukrainian website posted a story on the declining popularity of Stella Zakharova Cup. It used to be a much more prestigious event but recently top gymnastics countries have been ignoring it.
Apparently, the organizers are trying to attract more international competitors and this year they paid travel and accommodations expenses for the participants (not sure if everyone or just some). Of course, this is a game changer for small gymnastics federations who can't afford going to a lot of competitions.
Malaysia sent a full WAG team there together with their Ukrainian coach Natalia Sinkova. Sinkova says the team really needs international experience and all expenses paid trip was a gift they've never gotten before.