Sunday, 21 April 2013

Euros 2013! Gymnast by Gymnast. PART 1, RUSSIA.

MOSCOW. What an exciting place for a championships to be held! Full of history and culture, and more importantly, home to some of the best and certainly the most artistic of artistic gymnasts in the world.
I wish I could have been in the arena for the duration of the competition but I had no such money or luck therefore I was following via twitter for the qualifications and then I was able to watch on BBC 2 or the Red Button for the Finals. On the Sunday Finals I was partially following via twitter- as I was at my beautiful god-daughter Sasha's christening- and then afterwards I was at the BBC studios with Louis Smith and Matt Baker. (Both events were great in different senses and the post-christening thing explains why I was wearing a dress for the BBC, haha!)

These are my general thoughts on how the competitions went for each gymnast:

statue of Marshal Zhukov the second world war commander

The qualifications were interesting however not particularly thrilling (especially not in comparison to the Finals).

Perhaps this was because I could not see the action anywhere, other than a few videos I managed to find afterwards. Perhaps it was just because it was the first getting-back-from-the-Olympic-Games major competition. Perhaps because all gymnasts know that they need not save their very best until the finals. There were a lot of falls. But the qualifications are not the competition to go all out in. Qualification rounds try to pick out the very good gymnasts for finals*, but it's in the finals where they battle it out to be the best. (*of course it all depends on what happens on the day in any competition. One example from here- Mustafina fell twice from the beam and failed to qualify for beam final yet she has one of the most difficult routines in the world on the apparatus!)

The all around finals were much more exciting to watch and there were far less mistakes on show. I was also really pleased with the final results since my favourite gymnast Aliya Mustafina won the European title and Great Britain's Ruby Harrold did fantastically well too, to finish where she did, considering she did not aim to be an all around contender when she came to Russia.

The apparatus finals are always the most fun to watch for me. The focus is on every tiny move and skill in each gymnast's single routine, for each apparatus event. Also, gymnasts from countries which are lesser known for their gymnastics force get a spotlight and chance to challenge the famous faces. There are opportunities for historic successes to be made by these gymnasts, if they medal. For example, two Swedish gymnasts qualified for the Uneven Bars Final.

Let's begin then, with Russia, and 2013 all around European Champion Aliya Mustafina...


Aliya Mustafina.

Aliya Mustafina

As I've already mentioned, in qualifications Aliya fell twice from the beam. A video on YouTube of her at the Russian Championships would suggest that her Beam routine was newly upgraded and looking ready however she still seemed to be struggling with the new combinations and changes and wasn't as confident as that perfected video made her Beam seem. It was still good, but with the mistakes it was just not quite perfect Mustafina-style.
You've got to forgive her for that though, after the Olympic Games rise and fall she was back here again at the first big competition, with a whole catalogue of pristine skills on each apparatus and she may not have been AS sharp as she is capable of, in qualifications, but she was still sharp nonetheless.
Her Bars were fantastic of course. She has kept standards very high there and qualified in first position. And regardless of her two falls on Beam she qualified in fourth all-around. That is testament to how good she is in itself, and to why she has such an enourmas fan base (me included, she is my favourite gymnast too!) and why judges love her (oh they do).

Aliya presenting as the all around winner
Source: NBC news
In the all around finals Aliya was back in the swing of things again, after her debut competition shakes she managed to pull it together! Beam was the first apparatus that her group (the top eight) competed on and the biggest obstacle for her, but she kept her feet sticky and got through it. From that point on, she just had to repeat her qualification routines and she could win it. Her Floor routine was very good and her Vault was stuck perfectly, which left Bars last. Going into the final rotation she was 0.7 behind Iordache, who had lead the competition the whole way, but this would not stop her. Romanian gymnasts such as Larisa Iordache tend to be weakest on the Bars, out of the four apparatus. Aliya Mustafina of Russia is the current Olympic Champion. Iordache did all she could to increase her advantage, and performed one of her best bar routines she has done, to score 13.866 but it was not good enough. Aliya performed as the last gymnast of the competition, with complete focus and precision. She showed a stunning routine, hitting every handstand and without any hint of the pressure she was under. This easily closed the gap between her and Larisa, scoring a 15.133 which gave her a total of 59.032 and a gold medal, over Larisa Iordache's 58.432 and disappointed expression.

Saturday- Aliya competed in the Bars Final. She does not compete two vaults, therefore was not involved in that area but the uneven bars title was hers to lose. Championships by championships, and one flawless routine after another, Aliya very rarely falters on the Bars. This trend continued. Her biggest rival was Rebecca Downie of Great Britain, as she qualified in second position, however unfortunately Becky fell near the start of her routine. In fact, a lot of gymnasts fell in this Bar final, causing observing gym fans to label it a 'splat-fest'. Aliya did not and does not fall. She grabbed the gold medal easily. What she was most pleased about though, was not her own success but that of Maria Paseka. "Yes, yes, yes!" she cheered, jumping up and down and grinning when she saw the final results. The joy was on behalf of her team mate who she hugged repeatedly, shook, and high fived. The modesty and team spirit of Aliya makes her all the more endearing to fans, as if her brilliant gymnastics was not enough.
Bar medalists Aliya Mustafina and Maria Paseka hugging
Sunday- Aliya did not qualify for the Beam Final (after 2 falls in qualification, remember?) and pulled out of the Floor, allowing Anastasia Grishina the chance to compete.

Maria Paseka

In Qualifications Maria surprised us, after she swinging bars very well. She is known almost entirely as a strength for her complex vaulting. So then, it was an unexpected delight that she made the Uneven Bar Final as well as Vault Final for Saturday's competition.

Maria Paseka on the Bars
Source: Yahoo Eurosport
When Saturday came, we were shocked again. The vaulting that she is known for went terribly in the final. She did not manage enough height or power out of either of her Vaults, and consequently fell on both; the second one all the more devastating after the first disaster. The Russian home crowd were not impressed at her finishing positions on her back/bum and hands/knees and Paseka hid and wept in the arms of Ksenia Afansyeva. But her competition was not over- she had Bars to go. In an almost-reverse turn of events, Maria excelled on the Bars instead. Where others fell she did not, and her pretty routine scored 14.400 with an execution of 8.600 out of ten. Only the champion Aliya Mustafina and Swedish gymnast Jonna Adlerteg managed to rise above it, and so the final finished with Maria in bronze medal position. Her tears of sorrow and shame turned to joy and relief with this redemption as she celebrated alongside gold medal winning team mate Aliya, who seemed more happy for Maria's medal than her own (see photo of the two gymnasts hugging, above).

Anastasia Grishina performs in the Floor Final
Anastasia Grishina

Anastasia's qualifier was tricky. She fell on Bars and Beam but she still beat expectations. It was rumoured (Rodioneko) that she has not been training very well and that she might be insufficiently prepared for the European Championships- although she has looked great in YouTube videos (although they can be deceiving...)
It was said that maybe Afansyeva would make all around final instead of her, but this is not the way things went and she ended up in third place at the end of all the rounds. Even counting her fall on Beam she scored 13.400 which made her first reserve for the Beam final as well as being reserve for the Floor final on account of the two-per-country ruling.
As it happened, Britain's Gabby Jupp injured herself on her Beam dismount and could not take her place in the Beam final. Also, Aliya Mustafina pulled out of the Floor final giving Anastasia a chance to compete there too. So with a bit of luck, Anastasia made it into the all around, Floor and Beam finals.

In the all around final, Anastasia upped her game (along with every other gymnast). Her Floor was better, her Vault was a brilliant double twisting yurchenko for 14.900 and her Bars went through cleanly this time, to be awarded a massive 15.033! In the last rotation she was one of the final competitors, on the Beam. Where she had fallen previously, she played it safe and she reduced her double spin to a full spin as well as absorbing some connected skills into separate elements. Although slightly lower in start value, it was lovely Beam routine and she sat waiting in suspense to see if she would medal all around. She deservedly took the bronze.

Sunday- In the Floor Final Anastasia had a jump back out of her first tumble and a messy rebound out of her second yet her delectable ballerina's poise and flexibility as well as her clean final two passes kept her in fourth position by the end.
The Beam Final was more to her favour, and her elegance and grace prospered as she managed a successful routine, to win another bronze medal and capitalise on the opportunity that Gabby Jupp's misfortune gave her. She was a pleasure to observe.

Ksenia Afansyeva spins during the Floor Final

Ksenia Afansyeva/Afanaseva - It turns out that the changes in the spelling of her name are down to the inconsistencies occurred when translating from Russian.

Ksenia did not have the qualifying competition she wanted. Like Mustafina and Grishina, who counted two falls each, she had a difficult time competing. But Afansyeva was all the more embarrassed for her difficulties, as she finished bottom of the Russian pack after some serious mistakes. She only qualified for one Final: Floor. However, Afansyeva is remarkable on the Floor, and she made the most of that routine on the Sunday. An absolutely fantastic performance redeemed her European Championships experience entirely, and gave her the glorious European title.


  1. Keep em coming, Jenni! Nice to see an olympic gymnast enjoy following and spectating the sport as much as we do

  2. Thanks so much Jenni!! Terrific analysis for those of us who couldn't see it. Go Queen Aliya!!!!