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This week’s Russian Cup forecasts a bright future for the Russian women…
Alexander Alexandrov was the head coach for the teams that many would consider to be the most dominant in women’s gymnastics history – the 1989 and 1991 world championship and 1992 Olympic gold medal teams from the Soviet Union. He coached gymnasts like Svetlana Boguinskaya, Natalia Laschenova, Tatiana Lysenko, Tatiana Gutsu, and even recently retired Oksana Chusovitina back when they set a standard for the sport that some would argue has never been reached again. That era is exactly the period of gymnastics many of us think of when we refer to the “good ole’ days,” when the sport centered around beauty, innovation, and originality – and the gymnasts were actually rewarded for it. Alexandrov not only led those three incredible Soviet women’s teams, but also was the former personal coach of the gymnast whom many would name as the greatest male gymnast in history – Dimitri Bilozerchev, who won the 1983 world all-around title at a record-setting 16 years of age. After 15 years of coaching in the United States, Alexandrov returned to Russia last fall to take over the Russian women’s team once again – undoubtedly with ambitions to finally regain the status and respect that his former regime has since ceded to countries like Romania, China, and the United States. Although the Russians have certainly produced numerous spectacular gymnasts over the last 15 years, they haven’t stood atop the podium on the world stage since becoming an independent country after the 1992 Olympics. Was Barcelona in 1992 the pinnacle of Soviet/Russian gymnastics? Alexandrov – and many of us fans – hope not.
Let’s take a look at NINE different stars on the Russian team right now:
- Ksenia Semenova (2009 European AA Champ, 2007 UB World Champ, 4th AA in Beijing)
- Aliya Mustafina (recent 2009 Russian Cup AA Champ, 2nd AA 2009 Japan Cup)
- Ksenia Afanasyeva (2nd AA 2009 European Champs, Olympic beam finalist)
- Tatiana Nabieva (2008 Jr. European AA Champ, 3rd AA 2009 Japan Cup)
- Viktoria Komova (2009 European Youth AA champ)
- Anna Dementieva (3rd AA at recent 2009 Russian Cup)
- Anna Myzdrikova (1st FX 2009 Moscow World Stars, 1st vault Maribo World Cup)
- Ekaterina Kurbatova (2009 Russian Cup vault champ, multiple vault titles this year)
- Kristina Goryunova (FX and BB champ at 2009 Maribo World Cup)
These nine gymnasts are the ones who have been really catching my attention this year – along with many other fans around the world. The unfortunate part is that FOUR out of these nine gymnasts are not eligible to compete at this year’s worlds – Mustafina, Nabieva, Komova, and Dementieva. What a travesty! I know I probably sound like a broken record by now, but a part of me hopes that if enough of us online writers (including YOU!) keep expressing our disgust with the women’s age rule, some sense may start to rub off on someone in the FIG. We can at least hope…
Next, let’s take a look at some videos of these four age-ineligible all-around stars whom we won’t have the privilege of seeing on the world stage until next year!