Fans were so close to seeing the entire 2012 Olympic team in action at the 2015 Russian Cup, beginning this Wednesday in Penza, but #AliyaGate is real and Mustafina – who last competed at the European Games in Baku where she won all-around gold – will not be in attendance.
The press quoted Valentina Rodionenko as saying Mustafina is struggling with back injuries and while she will sit out the Russian Cup, her name is still on the table for the World Championships team. However, Mustafina has reportedly not been at Round Lake in several weeks and the limited training time could be to her detriment, especially as Russia actually has excellent depth this year, for the first time in ages. It might actually be beneficial to let her take a break and rest up for 2016 while giving some of the younger girls a shot in Glasgow this October.
The rest of Mustafina’s London teammates will compete, including Anastasia Grishina, who has been out since sustaining an injury at the Russian Championships last spring. It will be interesting to see how she compares to Ksenia Afanasyeva, Maria Paseka, and Viktoria Komova, all of whom have competed internationally this year with strong results.
Afanasyeva and Paseka each picked up individual golds at European Championships, and while Komova lost out on event finals spots due to the one-per-country rules at European Games, she has had excellent scores on bars, and could be integral to the team’s success at Worlds. Grishina, on the other hand, was the bronze all-around medalist at Championships before getting injured on floor in team finals. She was steady on all four events but didn’t really have a standout, so unless that’s changed, there just might not be any room for her this year.
Her biggest competition could come from gymnasts like Maria Kharenkova and Seda Tutkhalyan, both steady all-arounders who stand out on beam. Kharenkova qualified first in the all-around at European Champs this year and then earned silver in the final, looking super consistent both days but then losing her vibe in beam finals on what should’ve been an easy gold for her.
Tutkhalyan, meanwhile, has finished around 57.4 in three international all-around meets since the spring, showing a level of consistency she failed to show as a junior (though like Kharenkova, she too fell in a beam final after qualifying with a 14.6 at European Games…sigh). She also has two vaults and a possible Amanar upgrade, making her incredibly valuable there, so it could be hard to leave her behind.
The other big international medalist is Daria Spiridonova, last year’s Worlds bronze medalist and this year’s European Champion on the uneven bars. She’s reaching the mid-15s this year, and could provide a big boost to the team there, especially in Mustafina’s potential absence.
Runners-up to this top group include 2014 World Championships team members Tatiana Nabieva and Alla Sosnitskaya, recent Batumi champion Evgeniya Shelgunova, and Four Nations bronze medalist Anastasia Dmitrieva, all of whom will compete in Penza. Also back is Anastasia Sidorova, a top junior who didn’t quite fit into the Olympic picture in 2012. She competed at the Diyatin Cup earlier this year, but this week will be our first real look at her in three years.
In addition to the seniors, three Rio-eligible juniors will compete as individuals. This group includes Natalia Kapitonova, Angelina Melnikova, and Daria Skrypnik.
Last year Rodionenko had to scramble for a worthy alternate after all of the injuries, and her chosen team nearly lost the team bronze to a fledgling Romania. But this year, even the C team options are promising. There’s definitely a great deal of potential here, with or without Mustafina, though we do wish her luck and hope to see her back happy and healthy when she’s ready.
The Russian Cup begins this Wednesday, September 16, with the team final and individual qualifications. The all-around final will be held on Thursday and event finals will take place on Saturday and Sunday. A full list of competitors is below.
|Central Federal District
|Volga Federal District
|Southern Federal District
|Siberian Federal District
*Kharenkova’s scores will also apply to the Southern District.
**Komova’s scores will also apply to Moscow.
***Shelgunova’s scores will also apply to Volga.
Article by Lauren Hopkins