The Russian Gymnastics Federation announced its final Olympic training squads Sunday following the conclusion of the Russian Cup in Penza. Pictured: World champions Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova have reason to smile, as locks for Russia's Olympic team.
The Russian Gymnastics Federation announced its final Olympic training squads Sunday following the conclusion of the Russian Cup in Penza.
Eight male and eight female gymnasts will train for spots on the five-member teams that will go to London shortly before the Olympics begin next month. Two more male and two more female gymnasts will continue to train as alternates in Moscow, a few hours away from London by plane.
The women's training squad is Ksenia Afanasyeva, Anastasia Grishina, Yulia Inshina, Viktoria Komova, Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabiyeva, Maria Paseka and Anastasia Sidorova.
The men's squad is Denis Ablyazin, Alexander Balandin, David Belyavsky, Emin Garibov, Nikita Ignatyev, Sergei Khorokhordin, Konstantin Pluzhnikov, and Igor Pakhomenko.
Komova, Mustafina and Grishina are considered locks for the women's team, while Ablyazin, Belyavsky and Garibov essentially are assured of spots on the men's team. Specialist Balandin was announced as an Olympian after winning the European title on still rings, but Pluzhnikov defeated him on the event in the final in Penza.
2011 European all-around champion Anna Dementyeva was left off the training squad for Russia's Olympic team.
"We used three criteria for selection," Russian gymnastics head Andrei Rodionenko told news agency RIA Novosti. "First were the results shown in three specific events: the Russian championships, the European championships and the Russian Cup. Second were the routines performed and their compliance with ideal qualities, difficulty and execution. The third was psychological — being strong-willed and showing fighting qualities in tough competitions."
While the men's squad was predictable, the omission of the classical Anna Dementyeva is noticeable on the women's side. Dementyeva had an outstanding run over the past two years, and was repeatedly praised by the coaching staff as the hardest-working athlete on the national team. She contributed three routines in team finals at the 2010 Worlds to help the Russian women win their first world team title. In 2011 she showed upgraded routines to win the Russian championships, and the all-around and balance beam titles at the European championships in Berlin (albeit in the absence of injured teammates Mustafina and Komova).
Illness limited Dementyeva at the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo, however, and injury and a growth spurt have slowed her so far in 2012. She performed reasonably well in Penza with the highest beam score the first day of competition, though she fell on her dismount in the all-around final. She took the bronze medal on beam with the top Difficulty score of the final (6.4) and scored well on uneven bars on all three routines.
Instead the Russian coaches opted to extend the invitation to the younger Inshina, who finished third all-around in Penza but like Dementyeva can reasonably only contribute on balance beam in team finals. Inshina hit for scores between 14.400 and 14.500 on beam in Penza, while Dementyeva was capable of 14.867 and 14.950 when she hit.
The coaches also decided to give further chances to the still unproven Sidorova and Paseka, neither of whom managed to be consistent in Penza. The team's weakness is vault, however, and both gymnasts have competed the high-tariffed Amanar vaults, though Paseka missed two of three attempts in Penza and Sidorova has not competed hers since she was a junior. Sidorova also failed to impress at the European championships, falling on beam in the team final and scoring poorly on floor exercise both days, as the Russian women lost the team title to Romania by less than a point.
The selection revealed the team's strategy, however. Afanasyeva, Grishina, Komova and Mustafina are likely to compete the majority of events in team finals if all are healthy, meaning Russia needs one more gymnast to land an Amanar vault to challenge for first place. Nabiyeva — who had been training at home most of the year due to injury and being out of shape — made a strong showing in Penza. The two-time world team member could grab the final spot if she regains her Amanar.
Afanasyeva, Khorokhordin and Pluzhnikov are the only 2008 Olympians remaining in the mix. Anton Golotsutskov — who won two Olympic bronze medals in Beijing — was suddenly forced out of contention by a herniated disc that hospitalized him after the recent European championships.
The final Olympic teams will be announced no later than July 7.
External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation
International Gymnast Magazine Related Features:
"Up for the Challenge" - Komova interview (May 2012)
Komova cover photo (June 2010, July/August 2010, October 2010,
"The Mustafina Mystique" - profile (January 2011)
Mustafina cover photo (December 2010)
"Russian Intensity" - Nabiyeva interview (June 2011)
"Poised for Perfection" - Afanasyeva interview/cover photo (January/February 2012)
Dementyeva cover photo (May 2011)
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