Training in Moscow until July 21, members of Russia's Olympic gymnastics squads are preparing for London as best they can at home.
Russia's coaches opted to keep the gymnasts at home as long as possible to keep them focused without the distractions of the Olympic atmosphere. The late arrival, however, means the gymnasts have less time to acclimate themselves to London, though the team is doing its best to mimic the schedule. The men's team begins its "afternoon" training session at 8 p.m. Moscow time, staying in the gym until nearly 11 p.m. to work out closer to the team's evening qualification session.
Head coach Andrei Rodionenko said every detail is "very important" to get the athletes used to the change in order to help Russia get back onto the team podium.
"If an athlete has been used to going to bed at 10 p.m and eating dinner at 6 or 7 for a long period of time, it's as if his body is programmed to this schedule," he told "Sport-Express" newspaper. "He is going to get used to that time between dinner and bedtime, when there are all sorts of recovery and therapeutic procedures, during which the muscles and the head are completely relaxed."
The Russian men will compete in the third and final qualification session on July 28, scheduled for 8 to 10:20 p.m. The Russian women compete in the fourth of five sessions on July 29.
"To train in real time in London in Moscow is meaningless," Rodionenko said. "If you start training at 11 at night, it dramatically increases the likelihood of injury. The body is asleep. So we have chosen a compromise. The girls are easier — their session is almost in line with their usual schedule."
The practice sessions include mock competitions, modeling the team's starting order during the Olympics.
"We conduct these training sessions daily, precisely in order to model after the team competition as it will be held in London," Rodionenko said. "When an athlete leaves the mat with his tongue hanging out after floor exercise, and two minutes later she has to vault. This is the hardest thing: to go out and perform when most want to take a few minutes to sit and relax. This is how we are preparing our kids."
Most teams are planning to arrive early and train in nearby clubs until moving into the Olympic Village. The Chinese squads have already arrived in Northern Ireland. Rodionenko said Russia looked into the possibility of training at a club in the United Kingdom or in Northern France, but instead opted to stay at Lake Krugloye, the Russian national training centers for gymnastics, fencing, swimming and other sports.
"First, at Lake Krugloye we have our own self-contained medical unit," he explained. "Gymnastics is such a specific kind of sport. There are specific procedures that need to be carried out every day to prevent injuries. Not to mention the situation where the athletes require more serious treatment. There's no need to get in line to ask someone about something.
"Secondly, here we have a familiar, almost homely atmosphere. Thirdly, the Olympics last for a long time, almost three weeks. Unnecessarily prolonging this period is fraught with consequences - after three weeks in the same location an athlete naturally begins to decline mentally. And the fourth and very important point, at our gym we have a lot of foam pits. It's not likely pits would be to be in abundance wherever we would go to train."
The Russian squad has several gymnasts returning from injury who are relying on the pits to cushion landings. Superstars Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina both underwent surgery in 2011, with Komova having a followup surgery on her ankle in February. Team captain Ksenia Afanasyeva missed Europeans with injury, while Anastasia Grishina has an injured shin. Men's standout David Belyavsky is dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck.
"[The pits] allow us to minimize the number of 'hard' landings," Rodionenko said. "This, alas, is a necessity. Gymnastics has become such a complicated sport that long-term work on the standard equipment, that is, on the podium when the body is constantly overworked, inevitably leads to injury. And we don't have any athletes to spare."
External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation