Saturday, 23 March 2013

Princess Mustafina

Aliya Mustafina is an extremely well-known name in the sport of gymnastics. She emerged as a senior in 2010 and had good success at both the European Championships and the World Championships in Rotterdam, where she helped Russia to win the team title for the first time in years. She has elegant lines and expresses herself beautifully in her gymnastics. She is also well known for her dramatic eye make-up and bold nail polish that she wears during competitions. American commentators love to refer to her 'diva' attitude and compare her to the likes of Svetlana Khorkina.

Mustafina competes on floor during the team final at the 2012 Olympic Games in London

She excels on all four apparatus and has good technique across the board (apart from some questionable leg form on her twisting elements). She is daring on beam and performs difficult dance and acrobatic skills with ease (double turn and standing arabian). Here is a very young Mustafina competing on beam in 2006. Even at 12 years old, she was a precise and confident performer and already has many difficult moves packed into her routine.

She was extremely confident coming into the AA final at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam. She told her father "I cannot loose". She was one determined 16 year old! At this stage she performed an Amanar vault, which gave her an added 0.7 edge over her fellow competitors. Perhaps most impressive were her beam and floor routines which she performed with confidence and style to take the AA title in her first ever World Championships.

Aliya's beam routine during the AA final at the 2010 World Championships

Aliya's gorgeous floor routine during the AA final at the 2010 World Championships

At the 2011 European Championships, Aliya severely injured her knee performing an Amanar vault during competition. This was met with cries of outrage and many debates were fought over whether or not gymnasts should be encouraged to perform these dangerous vaults. The FIG have now lowered the start value of the Amanar vault, in the hopes of discouraging gymnasts to perform them before they are ready. In Aliya's case, the accident was extremely unfortunate.

A scary reminder of how dangerous gymnastics can be

Many thought that this potentially career-ending injury would prevent Mustafina from attending the 2012 Olympic Games. Aliya proved what a fighter she was by resuming training as early as possible and by spending extra time on bars to rest her leg. Right up until the Olympic Games, many questioned her ability to perform well in the all-around. She delighted fans around the world by pulling together a performance that won her the bronze medal in the all-around competition behind Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova. Despite a fall on beam, her beautifully executed double turning Yurchenko, stellar bar routine and solid floor routine secured her a place on the podium (was awarded the tie-break over Aly Raisman).

Mustafina, Douglas and Komova on the podium at the all-around final at the 2012 Olympic Games

Mustafina helped the Russian team win silver in the Team finals in London. However, her proudest moment came with winning an individual gold medal in the uneven bars final. She is a beautiful bars worker and competes many difficult connections with huge amplitude and ease. Mustafina has overcome so much adversity to become Russia's most accomplished gymnast at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She is an inspiration to many across the globe and we hope to see much more of her beautiful gymnastics in the coming years!

Mustafina finally wins her individual gold medal for Russia on the uneven bars at the 2012 London Olympics

She's not done yet- see you in 2013!

Article by Imogen Browne (@Iflip4GymBlog)

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