Afanasyeva and Kramarenko…still major players?

Ksenia Afanasyeva and Ekaterina Kramarenko are definitely two of my favorite Russian gymnasts…both were major players for the Russian team in Beijing, and both are still holding on for possible spots on more Russian world and Olympic teams.  The best Afanasyeva has ever looked was in 2009…she had improved on all four events and was a very legitimate contender for the world all-around title.  It was such a shame she had to drop out due to injury, and unfortunately she hasn’t fully regained her form since.  Since making the event finals on beam in Beijing, however, that event has remained her strongest and most consistent.  She has struggled with her bar routine for the last year, and floor has been up and down – likely related to her injury.

Kramarenko has always been a very likeable and popular gymnast with great abilities as an all-arounder, but in particular very strong bar and floor routines that were a huge asset to the Russian team in 2007 and 2008.  Like Afanasyeva, she also made an event final in Beijing (floor exercise), but has never really emerged as an individual star.  She has been in and out of competition since Beijing, and it looked like she was likely on her way out of the sport.  However, recent appearances at the Russian Championship and Zakharova Cup indicate she has plans to return to top form…and best of all, she appears to be getting closer and closer.

With an incredible mix of veteran holdovers, stars on the comeback trail, and up-and-coming phenoms, this Russian team is developing into the strongest and deepest in its nation’s history.  Let’s take a closer look at the recent performances of Afanasyeva and Kramarenko to see if these two still have what it takes to represent this team on the world level:

Ksenia Afanasyeva Beam 2010 Russian Championships

Ksenia Afanaseyeva Beam 2010 Zakharova Cup

She really has become SO strong on beam.  She has consistently hit this event over the last year, even when she’s not in top form.  Although she is not in great all-around shape again yet, this event alone will give her an excellent chance of making the Russian world team this year.

Ksenia Afanasyeva Bars 2010 Zakharova Cup

She has had some endurance problems on bars over the last year….I’ve seen her fall on that dismount AT LEAST three times in competition now, and this routine was SHORTER than the one she was trying to compete in 2009.  She also has some slight bent knees on her casts.  I’ve always liked her look on bars, but she really needs to get this together over the next few months.

Ksenia Afanasyeva Floor 2010 Russian Championships

I LOVE the 2 whips to triple full.  Hopefully she is planning on beefing up the other passes (putting the piked full-in back in, and maybe the 2 ½ to barani again), because this routine could potentially be a great attribute for her.

Ksenia Afanasyeva Floor 2010 Zakharova Cup

Those turns were way off this time, and slightly decreased difficulty.  Looks like her training on this event hasn’t been totally consistent.

Ekaterina Kramarenko Bars 2010 Russian Championships

Ekaterina Kramarenko Bars 2010 Zakharova Cup

Though not nearly the difficulty she is capable of (she had great in-bar stalder combinations in 2007 and 2008), she does still have a great look on this event.  She will HAVE to get more difficulty to make the Russian team again, but I think it’s possible.

Ekaterina Kramarenko Beam 2010 Russian Championships

Ekaterina Kramarenko Beam 2010 Zakharova Cup

Interesting…beam is now her best event!  This was always her weakest, but she looks very solid and confident here now.  If she keeps improving the other events, a Russian world berth this year would not be out of the question.

Ekaterina Kramarenko Vault 2010 Russian Championships

Not sure why she’s not doing a Yurchenko anymore, but this was a good Tsuk full…definitely looks like she could get a 1 ½.  If she added that to her Yurchenko double full, she would be one of the best vaulters in the world now!

Ekaterina Kramarenko Floor 2010 Russian Championships

This is where she has clearly lost the most.  She definitely looks nothing like an Olympic floor finalist here, and in fact this is the event that kept her from winning the Zakharova Cup as well.  She actually had strong 14+ scores on the other three events, but only an 11.45 on floor.  A decent floor score would have put her in 1st place ahead of Inshina and Afanasyeva.  Despite the struggles with the tumbling, she does look very FIT here.  If she can get her floor back to where it was in 2008, we may not have seen the last of Kramarenko.