Because FAN is short for FANATIC

What goes down when I watch the best sport ever
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Translation of an interesting interview with Alexandrov

Thanks so much to Liefje for the find. I’ve paraphrased a lot since Russian doesn’t always lend itself well to English. My Russian is far from perfect, so I can’t guarantee it’s free of mistakes :) 

Tender conditions are not for athletes

- Gold, two silver and three bronze. Alexander, was this the set of accomplishments the women’s team was aiming for when they traveled to London? 

- On the first day I returned to Russia, I said immediately that I would not ask for a year or two or three, to show some (good) results. I explained that I perfectly understood the need to show results at every single event. I am a man of action: when it’s time to do something, I will go and do it, not talk about it and say it will come with time. My first championship (as head coach of Russia), here in London, we (were not in a position to) and did not win anything, and (our best finish) was winning two fourth places. But I said we’re going to compete no matter what.

 Russian gymnasts

Российские гимнастки Алия Мустафина, Виктория Комова, Мария Пасека, Анастасия Гришина и Ксения Афанасьева (слева направо), завоевавший серебряные медали в командном многоборье среди женщин, во время церемонии награждения на XXX Олимпийских играх 2012 года в Лондоне

Even now, years later, we have a big problem in that our reserve team and our (“‘A”) team who we send out to competitions are essentially the same. (** Here he is referring to the lack of depth). This has hindered us; we have to play it very safe, but again once we go to a competition we must fight to the end. In London we set the task of winning medals. I was completely aware of all the information regarding the level of (our competitors) - the American women (and) the Romanian woman, to whom we lost the European Championship. We were preparing for a very serious fight. The team successfully completed a final verification and departed for the Olympics at a high level. I can say that the Russian team is capable of showing the best results, but it is competition, and no one is immune to mistakes. And the mistakes, unfortunately, they happened. Komova could not do everything she showed in training. The reasons - injuries, we ran out of time. But we have found the goods to compete (on a level) with anyone. We are honest -we can not blame anyone for anything  - we placed second after the American women.

- Was it really ever possible for the Russian team to pass the Americans, given their level of readiness ?

- We definitely hoped so. After the qualification round we saw the possibility to compete with them really open up, provided that all our girls showed their absolute best. However, mistakes began to materialize. The first warning sign was Grishina’s performance on the uneven bars. I personally thought that were would be stronger on the second day, but something did not work. We will have to revisit and analyze (what went wrong).

- The Olympics showed that the weakest link in the team turned out to be Grishina, on whom we had pinned very high hopes. Can this be attributed to her lack of competitive experience?

- This is a very interesting question. There is no doubt that she is a talented little athlete. Heading into this Olympic cycle it seemed that the three girls - Komova, Mustafina and Grishina - would be able to solve all (our) problems (and compete) at any level. But then there were (injury) issues with Mustafina and Komova. And Grishina was permitted to train on her own plan. I was against it. I had kept head coach (Oleg) Ostapenko, who had already been with the National team for two years, but Grishina’s coach (Sergey Zelikson) persuaded everyone that he could prepare her. And you see the result…… 

- And can something can be said of the fact that in the training camp and at competitions Grishina lived with her mother? (**note - Grishina is the only gymnast whose mother has accompanied her to Round Lake and rooms with her there). 

- Here, the point is not the mother -although in other countries this is not permitted. If a National team is being trained together, it should be in equal conditions. 

-“Greenhouse**” conditions are not suitable for gymnasts? (**note If somebody speaking in Russian uses the term ” greenhouse conditions”, they are referring to an oversensitive or hyper-protective environment. It’s generally said with negative connotations). 

-In general, they are not good for anyone. But the thought was that they (Grishina’s camp) knew better than anyone else how to prepare themselves. Grishina was supposed to be among the key players who could compete for medals at this Olympics. However, it turned out to be a failure, as everyone got into a final(s), but her..In my opinion, this was an outright error. And not just on the part of her coach, but also on the part of those who allowed her to train in that way. 

Maria Bee Farm

Россиянка Мария Пасека, занявшая третье место в опорном прыже во время финальных соревнований по спортивной гимнастике среди женщин на ХХХ Олимпийских играх 2012 года в Лондоне, на церемонии награждения.

© RIA Novosti. Vladimir Astapkovich

- The fifth member of the team was not announced until the last minute. The choice of Maria Paseka, in your opinion, was justified?

- Two years ago,at the Junior European Championships, she very successfully vaulted a double twisting yurchenko. While working with Ostapenko in training, she vaulted 2.5 twists and was already prepared to start perfecting the details (the landing) of that vault. But it turned out that when she moved to the main center,  time and time again she was showered with injuries that kept knocking her off track. During the final (internal) test before the World Championships, Paseka successfully vaulted 2.5, but then sprained her leg. After treatment, there was a big question of whether she’d be able to do anything again or not. We remembered that at one point, she had been prepared to do the vault of 2.5 twists that we needed to compete with the US, so we kept her on. And at the last moment Paseka began to turn out fairly successful attempts. We decided that we would use her more than anyone else. To a certain extent this decision was justified, as she did her job. And she earned a medal for the team. 

- In the final vault, had Paseka not stepped off the mat, could she in fact be an Olympic champion? 

- The Olympic champion was meant to be an American. She does that first vault so well and puts so much distance between herself and the next one, that everyone understands there is nobody who can vault better than her. She could do that vault in her sleep (note ** the literal translation here is that you could wake her up in the middle of the night and she could go do the vault). Even if she had simplified the second vault, nobody would have caught her.  But the Americans were so sure she wouldn’t make a mistake that they did not scale down and so things turned out differently. In any case, third place for Paseka is a great success.

- But if Izbasa had not landed her vaults, and Maroney became Olympic champion despite the fall, then there would be a major embarrassment in the judging at the Olympics?

- If you think about it that way, then of course yes, Maroney was propped up. If you analyze the fall thoroughly, it’s possible that she could have remained outside the medals. But apparently, psychologically, the judges were convinced that she was untouchable and they themselves were in a state of shock. She has never made a mistake before - it was so easy for her. It’s hard to understand what happened. 

- On the podium, Maroney covered up her silver medal with her hands. Our own Viktoria Komova  sobbed after receiving a silver medal. What was the meaning behind Vika’s tears? A definitive reluctance to accept defeat? 

- When we traveled to the Olympics, I personally thought that Komova was able to win. She was ready to win this competition! She came in with a good, difficult program and showed it on the first day (of competition), surpassing the American. But once again, something was not quite enough. Right now, she is in the middle of growing which is why there are all these small injuries. They take a lot of time to heal, despite the fact that they are not very serious. So we lost a lot of time. In spite of everything, Vika prepared well, but she did not have enough margin for error (enough of a safety net). I do not think that she is the weaker gymnast, she is even more interesting and stronger than Douglas.

- Vick said that a silver medal is the equivalent of no medal.

- Yes, she knows it and we understand that. After all, the foundation was there. This is a difficult event, which takes a lot of emotional strength, and when there are physical deficiencies, they make themselves felt.

Victoria Komova

Россиянка Виктория Комова после финальных соревнований по спортивной гимнастике среди женщин (упражнение на брусьях) на ХХХ Олимпийских играх 2012 года в Лондоне.

- These defeats/injuries - they don’t destroy an athlete?

- I do not think so. Now she will come home and rest. To some extent this can encourage her to train more rigorously. I’m not saying she was poorly trained, but she’s at an age where it’s hard to cope with the body. So she could benefit from (all) this. 

- After the tournament, Komova said that she is not certain that she will continue her career.

- Where will she go? She is still a child, and said this out of insult/resentment: I wanted to do something - and I failed.

- And who from this current team can continue a career after the Olympics?

- Very difficult to say. When I worked with Chusovitina, I thought that she’d be finished soon. And there she is - still practicing! It all depends on motivation. I’m not talking about the material issues, and the things people want. (I’m talking about) the desire to achieve results - a very strong motivation, which drives one to come to the gym, to submit to a regime of exercise and practice through the (times where they feel) “I can not” .” Mustafina, Komova have now become adults. and sure, it’s nice when people recognize them somewhere. But you can easily disappear into the shadows - they must decide for themselves what they want.

- Ksenia Afanasyeva, unlike the other gymnasts, has already been through not one, but two Olympic cycles. How hard will it be for her to withstand for a third, given that she is already almost 21? 

- At the start of this cycle, I did not think she could withstand it. But she found the strength. Of course, it was not easy, because Xenia is already an adult. Last year, she became a World Champion, and that motivated her to show increased interest. Apparently, she liked it (being a Champion). So I would not be surprised if she starts to prepare for the next cycle. I suppose it will not be in the all-around but two or three events instead. But anything is possible. 

- After her victorious World Championship, many expected that she would medal on floor at the Olympics as well. If not a gold, then a silver or bronze at the very least? 

- She performed very well in the all around at the Russian Championships in March. But then she had a bad landing on a vault. The doctors said that it was nothing serious, but she complained: “My ankle hurts.” And so, since March, Afanasieva almost never competed. At the Cup of Russia she competed with a watered down routine and only started doing it completely at the final verification. Last year the World Championships she arrived in better condition, and we were afraid this time that she might make a mistake. 

Aliya Mustafina

Россиянка Алия Мустафина, завоевавшая бронзовую медаль в вольных упражнениях среди женщин, во время церемонии награждения на ХХХ Олимпийских играх в Лондоне..

-Medals were expected from Afanasyeva and in fact, Aliya Mustafina took the bronze. For you, was her fourth medal at the Olympics unexpected?

- Yes. She was not yet fully trained on the floor exercise due to her injury. But she is a fighter and enjoys competing. Some get nervous, but she enjoys (thrives on) this process. Before this final Aliya set no goals, she just wanted to try and finish with gymnastics worthy of this event.

- The first competition for Aliya after her injury was Voronin Cup.  Back then, six months ago,  she emerged on the podium as an entirely different gymnast. It seemed almost impossible that she could recover and prepare in time for the Olympics.

- When it finally became possible to practice after the knee injury, it just exacerbated the pain in her back. During this time we weren’t getting anywhere and nothing was working for us. And no one could tell us what was happening. There was a moment of desperation where it seemed that she was unlikely to return. But, thank God, everything (patience) came (together). From somewhere we have (been given) enough patience. From somewhere she found it.

- Who has had more to endure?

- The patience was different. At 17 years old, the patience is different as you become an adult, but you have to suffer in another way. (They) strut about (as if everything is fine), and yet are going through everything on the inside. On the one hand, it seemed there was really no way to recover. But then (finally) once everything was normal again, (she) grew wings. It was a very difficult year for everyone. But, maybe up there, someone decided to reward her for all the suffering and to make it right down here. I don’t know. When we used to win in the Soviet Union, it was a completely different competition, but now each medal is worth its weight in gold. Aliya has won four medals. Given all of her injuries, it’s really a feat.

- Everyone is talking about the difficult nature of Aliya. When you started working with her, did you expect her to grow into a great gymnast and a champion? 

- You know, I did not want to take her. I came, and they told me “Here’s this girl Mustafina who was left without a coach. She trains at CSKA (Central Sports Army Club) in the “not too promising” group”. CSKA was the old club where I grew up and worked all my life. The head coach of the club is an old friend from my youth. Her husband was a wrestler, as was Mustafina’s father. She told me, ‘Take her. You won’t regret it. She’s just hanging around here’. Her father came down and we talked. He signed her over (signed a bill) and said “Take”. 

RI - 2012.  Gymnastics.  Women.  Qualification

Российские гимнастки Алия Мустафина, Анастасия Гришина, Виктория Комова, Ксения Афанасьева, Марина Пасека (слева направо) во время квалификационных соревнований по спортивной гимнастике среди женщин на Олимпийских играх 2012 года в Лондонеn.

- How hard was it to work with her at first?

- She obeyed everything. Although I’m not saying there weren’t times where she’d break down and run away. No, little by little we became accustomed to each other. There were some failures along the way, (especially) at times where she was tired/weary, but this is all a normal process. Not everything can always run smoothly and come easily. When something was not working, initially I’d try the simplest way to act on it/ influence it and she’d start to cry. And it would only make things worse. I’d tell her: “Well, you did not do it, and you (stormed off) away to the sauna.” She would get angry/ make a scene, pull away but then we’d get together in the evening to talk it over. And gradually, the wheels began to turn…. 

- Would you  say that she had been the most difficult student in your career?

- No, I had too difficult a time with Bilozerchev ( He is blaming himself here). I had to work with Boginskaya - another one who was a real treat (sarcastically). Do you think Komova is easy? For some reason there is a stereotype that Mustafina is the villain while Grishina is supposedly the perfect child. Absolutely not! And Komova works very hard, but all of them can get sulky. They also understand how nothing is given (how you must work for everything)! And Aliya came over to me after the bronze medal in the all-around, and says: “Do you know what the journalists said? Valentina Rodionenko told them that I had no chance to win anything here, except on bars”. What could I say to say to that? The interview was given before the Olympics. Why? I wish/I should have gone and apologized in her (Rodionenko’s) place/ behalf…. 

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    // Thanks so much to Liefje for the find. I’ve paraphrased a lot since...
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    Thanks for this great interview. Grishina’s coaches should have let her train with the group because she made many...
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