Russian Cup Videos and Analysis
While team USA was having trouble showing why many people believe that they are the team to beat in Tokyo, team Russia was busy showing the world that we should not count them out. Although they have hardly any depth, their top gymnasts are capable of high scores and are all improving. Without world all around champion Aliya Mustafina, they will not come into worlds as the favorites, but they have shown this week that they have the potential to surprise a lot of people.
Anna Dementyeva has transformed from the little girl who was originally named alternate at 2010 worlds and looked scared to death into the number one gymnast on the Russian team. She even seems to be picking up a little bit of that diva attitude from her teammates. A lot of this has to be due to her success this year. Yes, the field was weak when she won both the Russian and European championships, but it still must have done a lot for her confidence. She knows how to compete and she knows how to win. She has significantly upgraded every single routine since 2010, and is looking like she could be a contender for an all around medal at worlds, which even her coach, who has continuously praised her for her hard work, did not think was possible. Her double twisting yurchenko is not one of the best in the world, but it’s a miracle that she can do that vault; her full was really not that good. Her bars difficulty has shot up from a 5.7 to a 6.3. Some people could not understand why the coaches chose to put her up on bars last year, especially when she started off their trouble, falling on her tkachev. This year, nobody will doubt that she deserves that spot. Beam has always been her strongest event, and that strength is backed up by a trip to world beam finals last year and a european title. While she has only made a few slight changes to her routine this year, she has hit five beam routines in a row, which we would not have expected from her last year. On floor, she seems to have gained some power. She unexpectedly did a new 2 1/2-layout 1/1 combination, and dismounted with a tucked full in, along with her usual first two passes. Her memmel turn, which was a complete mess in Paris, looks like it will get credit. It is even possible that she will do all around in team finals for Russia, although it would be better if she did not vault. This girl is no longer the gamble that she was in 2010.
Viktoria Komova is back, and she is looking like she did before her injury on bars and beam. In fact, the problems she had here looked like the same problems she had in December: the missed handstand on the piked stalder 1/1 and wobbles on beam. Hopefully these can be fixed. She is at full difficulty here. Vault and floor, understandably, are a different story. She significantly watered down her vault to a yurchenko 1/2, but it must have been clean. A clean double twisting yurchenko would be great for worlds if she is ready, because Russia lacks reliable vaulters at the moment. She has definitely grown since the last time she landed an Amanar in competition, and she may never get that vault back. Hopefully the coaches won’t push her too hard too fast to get it back. I have a feeling that they may go for broke at worlds this year, and she is fragile at the moment. On floor, she did a double tuck instead of a double arabian and a double full instead of a triple full. Because she did two double tucks in the routine, a) her score was lower and b) I expect her to upgrade by worlds. It seems as though the double tuck is a placeholder, and should be gone soon. Overall, I am really pleased with what I saw from her. I was worried when I heard that she competed all around, but it seems as though the coaches are being relatively careful with her after they rushed her back for the Russian Championships.
Ksenia Afanasyeva is getting another second chance. She is still unreliable, but the team needs her at the moment. At the very least, they will use her floor, which she has been hitting this week, in team finals. Her beam can be great, but there was a reason for using Semenova on beam in team finals last year. She has upgraded a bit and hit both routines so far at the Russian Cup, so who knows? Her vault is okay, and may be a better option than Dementyeva’s. Bars are a bit of a mess. She fell on a pirouette, which could be tricky, and a cast. Not good. This seems to be the place where she has had the most meltdowns in the past year.
These three should fight for the two all around spots at worlds this year, and be the backbone of the team in finals.
Yulia Belokobylskaya has been doing well all year and I can see her going to worlds. Her floor is very good and reliable, but she always seems nervous on bars and beam. Theoretically, she has the difficulty to be useful, but I would not want to count on her on those events. Vault is a question mark. She scored 14.6 at the Russian Cup, which may mean that she performed a double twisting yurchenko. She did beat Maria Paseka, who may have a chance at going to worlds as a vault specialist, which is a pretty big deal. At the beginning of the year, I thought of her as this year’s Dementyeva. Hopefully she will surprise us all at worlds.
We should also get the treat of seeing Tatiana Nabieva at worlds. She’s throwing Amanars again. Apparently Russia did not learn their lesson with Mustafina. Her attempt scored in the 12s, so she did not even try it in the all around. I think i would be better for her to just to a double at worlds as well, at least until event finals. Her bars have been scoring pretty well and she seems to be hitting them for the time being. Remember, though, she has never hit bars in a team finals as a senior. She is still not competing beam or floor.
The trouble with the sixth spot is that nobody seems to have the difficulty anywhere to challenge to top five. There are two somewhat weak spots in this team: vault and beam. By taking a vault specialist, they would not have to use Komova, Dementyeva or Belokobylskaya in team finals, which would be good because Komova is not back to full difficulty on vault and Dementyeva, Belokobylskaya and even Afanasyeva are inconsistent. While somebody like Maria Paseka would not add anything to the team difficulty wise, she would give the team a third vault that they could count on. If she gets an Amanar, I’d say the spot is hers. Anna Pavlova can also hit a vault, but the coaches seem to be against taking her, probably because at the moment she cannot contribute elsewhere and already has a long, inconsistent international career behind her. The composition of her beam routine is not helping her. The Omelianchik is what she had trouble on, and she already had 4 D skills and one C/E (layout) skill in her routine. It seems silly to do an Omelianchik incase the layout is not counted, because chances are there will be at least a .1 deduction. Ekaterina Kurbatova, unfortunately, looks worse than Semenova on vault at the moment.
Then there’s a potential beam spot, because nobody wants to see what happens if Afanasyeva does beam in team finals. The same goes for Belokobylskaya and Nabieva. Ksenia Semenova looks like she did last year on beam, but judging by her score did not hit day one. She has watered down on vault and floor. Yulia Inshina scored very well day 2, but not day 1. She also has a decent bars routine. And then there’s Pavlova, who theoretically fills both spots, but for the reasons above is not the frontrunner for the spot.
Diana Sapronova and Maria Stepanova are both slated to compete in Ghent, along with Komova and Paseka, at a world cup that will be considered in the world team selection. Sapronova’s best shot at the team comes on beam, but she and Stepanova, whose best shot comes on floor, don’t really have the difficulty to do it, from what I have seen.