Russia Names Preliminary Worlds Team

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Valentina Rodionenko went to the press today with an announcement about her preliminary team for this year’s world championships, a team chosen based on how her national team gymnasts have trained and performed so far this year.

At this moment, the team for worlds, to be held in Montreal from October 2-8, includes Elena Eremina and Angelina Melnikova for the all-around, Maria Paseka for vault, and Anastasia Iliankova for bars and beam. It’s the same team that competed at European Championships this spring, with Iliankova in place of Natalia Kapitonova, who won the Russian all-around title and bars titles this year but hasn’t performed well internationally.

At Euros, Eremina won the silver medal on bars and placed fourth all-around, while Melnikova surprised to win the gold on floor after an otherwise iffy meet, where falls in qualifications kept her from challenging for the all-around, bars, and beam finals. She’s had a lengthy break since then, focusing on training for worlds after competing at five meets in a row throughout March and April, so hopefully she’ll be back in fighting form and ready to challenge for medals in Montreal.

Rodionenko hopes sending a mostly young team to worlds will be good preparation looking forward to the 2020 Olympic Games, but says since the four-time Olympic medalist Paseka is the only gymnast in the country training her speciality, vault, at a high level, she is an automatic choice for that spot, especially as she hopes to continue through yet another quad with a third Olympics on her mind.

Noticeably missing from the team is Daria Spiridonova, though because the Russian teams generally change at least three times between the preliminary announcement and the competition, she still has a chance at fighting for the spot currently being held for Iliankova.

Spiridonova — currently in Taipei with Paseka, where the two are headlining the country’s Universiade team — is at about the same level as Iliankova on bars, though Iliankova has been far more consistent this season and spent the summer increasing her difficulty there to make her stand out a bit more. Iliankova is also a much better competitor on beam, where she has an outside shot at making the final, having won the silver medal on the event with a nice routine in Osijek this year.

Also missing is 2016 Olympian Seda Tutkhalyan, who hasn’t been in top form this year and didn’t receive any international assignments. Thanks to her higher level of consistency, Eremina, a first-year senior, has kind of stepped into the role once filled by Tutkhalyan, that of a top all-arounder who also happens to be a standout on a couple of events. Tutkhalyan was given many chances to prove herself in her first two years at the senior level, but never quite made it work out, with a European Games vault silver and a couple of challenge cup podium spots her only major international medals.

It might be obvious, but because people always ask, we also won’t see Aliya Mustafina or Ksenia Afanasyeva, both of whom had babies this summer and are taking time away from the sport. Nor will we see Viktoria Komova in the mix, as she’s still training for her comeback, which she’s hoping to make happen in time for the Voronin Cup in December.

The real test for the Russian women going into worlds will be the competitions coming up in the next couple of weeks. Paseka, Spiridonova, and their Universiade teammates will use that meet as their trial, while the rest of the women will compete at the Russian Cup, to be held in Ekaterinburg beginning August 21.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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8 thoughts on “Russia Names Preliminary Worlds Team

  1. I actually have high hopes for this team, and hope it doesn’t change. Russia’s biggest issue has been giving the boot in a sense to young, talented gymnasts and replacing them with veterans who are fresh off a hospital bed in Munich. This current worlds team diverges from that trend, which is amazing to see, with three young, super talented gymnasts put in, with one veteran that can fill the leadership void that has been created following Mustafina’s absence. Despite her challenges at Euros, I still think that if Paseka lays down two decent vaults, she’ll be on- or pretty close to- the podium. Melnikova will definitely medal on floor as long as she does what she produces at Euros in EF, and if she just hits four for four she’ll be a front runner for the All-Around title. Eremina also has a really good shot at the All-Around podium if she hits all four, and if she unveils and hits her new Nabieva-Pak-Van Leeuwen combo cleanly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her medal on Bars. Ilyankovas chances are a little up in the air, since we’ve only seen her once, and not at her best, but I still think that an upgraded Beam and a tidied up Bars set can get her an event final at the very least. I wonder if they’ll put one of the specialists up on floor just to fill up the slots or just decide to have them focus on their best events. Either way, love this preliminary team.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also hope it doesn’t change. It’s the best preliminary team she’s ever picked! Usually she’s like ALIYA WILL TOTALLY BE THERE and Aliya’s like ummm no I won’t, hahaha. I’m glad she was realistic with this one. The only way to stay out of Valentina’s preliminary teams is to have babies.

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  2. Im super stoked for Anastasia Iliankova. At the start if the year I said that she and Elena are the future for Russia this quad. I hope she also improves her other events because she was a great all arounder during her time as a junior.

    Also yes!!! They really need to stop rearranging the bones of their veterans and actually pay attention to the juniors who have the potential.

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  3. It’s silly from Valentina to announce the team BEFORE Russian Cup. Could you Imagine Lyukin telling the team will be Ragan, Morgan, Riley and Jade just before the US championships ? She could reasonnably wait the end of the competition. This declaration is not fair for a gymnast like Kapitonova who can feel a bit upset : whatever she does next week, the team is made.

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    • While I kind of agree, Valentina also said that this team is subject to change following the Russian Cup and Universiade; she said that if someone on the current team has a meltdown at the Russian Cup (or Universiade in Pasekas case), or if someone who’s not on the team shows upgrades or outperforms someone on the current team, then they will be open to swapping out gymnasts. It is what she said it was, a preliminary team. Besides, the gymnasts all know that Valentina usually changes her mind at least 10 times in between announcing a preliminary team and qualification day.

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      • Ok ! I didn’t read that in Russian papers, just that Spiridonova has an eventual opportunity if she hits her routines with the same skills she had in Rio (which she lost). I like the team Valentina announced but I’m afraid by Melnikova’s chronic unconsistency. I would have preferred Rodionenko could wait before trompetting the selection !

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  4. I am not getting my hopes up until this exact team actually travels to Montreal and sets foot in the arena, that’s when I’ll believe it’s the official team lol because you know.. Valentina..

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    • I think at least this year, she actually picked a team that could legitimately happen! Usually she’s like naming girls who haven’t competed in a year and aren’t training. I’m like aww Val that’s your dream team, not reality!! I was literally expecting her this year to be like “THE PRELIMINARY TEAM IS ALIYA, AFAN, KOMOVA, AND KHORKINA!” I’m so proud of her for actually choosing the gymnasts who best have a shot at going…I think Melnikova, Eremina, and Paseka are locks if healthy, but I could see her going back and forth between Iliankova and Spiridonova for the bars spot.

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