Though superstar Aliya Mustafina impressed in her recent competitive comeback, the 2010 world champion is being paced to peak at this year's Olympic Games, Russian women's head coach Alexander Alexandrov told IG on Sunday.
Though superstar Aliya Mustafina impressed in her recent competitive comeback after knee surgery, the 2010 world champion is being paced to peak at this year's Olympic Games, Russian women's head coach Alexander Alexandrov told IG on Sunday.
"Right now we don't want to force her back," Alexandrov said. "Even in March at the Russian championships I'm not expecting her to be in 100 percent shape, probably 75 to 80 percent. Today she has all her skills but they are not all together [ready for competition]. On vault she's doing soft landings and she also hasn't shown her new skills on bars. It's going to be a work in progress — the main goal is the Olympics."
Mustafina competed four events at the Voronin Cup on Dec. 16, eight months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on vault at the European championships in Berlin. The 17-year-old star looked physically fit in her comeback, showing a triple twist on floor exercise, a Yurchenko full on vault, and most of her difficulty on uneven bars and balance beam.
"I was pleasantly surprised and happy about her first meet," Alexandrov said. "She didn't do her full routines and full difficulty, but she tried what she was ready for at the time and for me it was enough to see."
Mustafina had intended to compete in November at the DTB Cup in Stuttgart, but wasn't quite ready, he said. Nicknamed "Iron Aliya" after her steely performance at the 2010 Worlds, Mustafina needed to gather her composure as she took her first steps back.
"She was nervous, even though her goal was just to compete, to see how she does after eight months off and how well she could handle the pressure and how her knee would feel," he said. "I came up up to her and said, 'Well, it seems like you're not very nervous at all and I'm surprised!' and she said, 'Look at my hands, Alexander!' and her hands were shaking. 'Maybe I'm not showing that I'm nervous, but inside I have butterflies!'"
Alexandrov said he hopes Mustafina will compete a few events in May at the European championships in Brussels, where the Russian women will try to defend their team title. However, fans should not expect her to be in prime shape, he cautioned.
"We'll see," said Alexandrov, Mustafina's personal coach since 2008. "I don't think she'll do 100 percent difficulty. She doesn't need to be 100 percent at that time; she will need to be 100 percent at the Olympics."
Russia entered first-year seniors Anastasia Grishina and Anastasia Sidorova for the upcoming pre-Olympic test event, Jan. 10-18 in London. Both gymnasts are expected to challenge for spots on Russia's Olympic team this summer.
"Sidorova's wrist is bothering her so I'm not sure yet about her status for this competition," Alexandrov told IG. "But Grishina is a great young talent coming up. She's a very interesting gymnast, very beautiful. She's light, she's flexible, she can do good difficulty. It just so happens she's missed a lot of competition lately. But I have high hopes for Grishina and I'm looking forward to seeing how she performs on the podium."
Read more from Alexander Alexandrov in an upcoming issue of International Gymnast Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital editions at a special holiday rate!
External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation