Update 9/23. According to TASS, Mustafina is now officially one of the seven named to the provisional team with Sosnitskaya no longer considered the number one alternate choice.
Following the 2015 Russian Cup, the women’s national program coaching staff have named the six gymnasts currently expected to compete at World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland this October.
According to TASS, Maria Kharenkova, Seda Tutkhalyan, and newly-crowned Russian Cup all-around champion Daria Spiridonova will compete in the all-around alongside Viktoria Komova, Ksenia Afanasyeva, and Maria Paseka as specialists. As of right now, Alla Sosnitskaya is looking like the most likely alternate, according to Valentina Rodionenko, but she notes that this spot could end up going to “a totally different athlete.”
This is an incredibly experienced team, with Tutkhalyan the only one who hasn’t competed on a major international stage like Worlds or the Olympics in the past. Despite her issues this week, she has proven to be reliable in international competition otherwise this year, putting in solid performances at the European Games and at a friendly meet in Italy.
In terms of the specialists, Komova will stick with bars and beam, Paseka will do vault and bars, and Afanasyeva will handle vault, beam, and floor. In this scenario, they have only four options on floor, meaning all four would have to hit in the five-up four-count qualifications format, though Paseka did show quality work on that event this week so with Komova still not back on the event, it’s likely she’ll compete there as well.
Though we reported Friday that Aliya Mustafina will be sitting this year out due to back pain limiting her training over the past couple of months, the Olympic champion seems to have had a change of heart only days later.
According to Rodionenko, Mustafina is eager to begin training again to get back into competition shape as soon as possible. “She’s going to clench her teeth through the pain in order to train for Worlds,” Rodionenko told TASS. “We know her condition and can’t force her to train, but she said she wants to be there and will return to the gym. If she’s ready, we’ll be taking seven gymnasts to Worlds.”
Mustafina, meanwhile, told R Sport that she has not yet made a final decision and everything will depend on her health.
“My performance at Worlds is up in the air,” she stated. “I’ll see how I’m doing in the next few weeks and will know whether it’s possible as we get closer to departure [for Glasgow].”
With her injuries causing her to miss training, it’s likely that being out of shape will be more of a hurdle than the pain itself, but she’s looking forward to getting back in shape at Round Lake, where she will begin training again this week to see if such a fast turn-around is possible.
It’s questionable whether any gymnast – let alone a 21-year-old dealing with injuries – can return to competition shape with just a month before Worlds, and neither she nor the Rodionenkos sounded fully convinced that it will happen…though with the mistakes and falls from the Russians in Penza this week, it’s clear why everyone is hopeful for the return of their consistent leader.
Article by Lauren Hopkins