Making Sense of the Russian Team

Before I begin, I’d like to apologize for my extended absence from this blog. I have missed several important meets and I will attempt to write short recaps of them in the coming weeks. Now, let’s begin recapping the Russian Cup and piecing the Russian Worlds/Euros team.

At the beginning of this year, I concluded that the Russians were the clear front runners for the European team gold and the Worlds team silver medal. While I still feel that they should easily win the European team gold, it’s mainly due to the relative weakness of the European field (when the French team is the second best team, you know the field will be weak). As for worlds, the Russians are likely the second best team, but the usual consistency issues combined with injuries taking out top contenders, Aliya Mustafina and Irina Alexeeva, the Russian team is susceptible to being passed by the Chinese and the Japanese.

With Mustafina and Alexeeva both out, Russia is going to have to rely on some inexperienced and/or inconsistent gymnasts. The one lock for this team is Olympic Silver Medalist, Angelina Melnikova. Melnikova won the All Around competition despite downgrading her floor tumbling and struggling on her DTY. Melnikova was the clear standout on both bars and beam, the latter due to her improved routine composition, where she removed the layout that has plagued her consistency. Melnikova ties the Russian team together due to her ability to contribute all four events at a high level, and should something happen to her, the Russians will tumble down the rankings, as they have nobody close to Melnikova’s level.

Despite placing fourth in the All Around, Angelina Simakova is also nearly a lock for the team due to her prowess on both vault and floor. She has been inconsistent with her Rudi vault, but when she hits it, she has an undeniable Paseka-esque score that the Russians will lean on. Her floor is adorable and useful, with a cute doll-themed routine paired with powerful tumbling, she’s the clear second best to Melnikova on this event. She has been incredibly inconsistent on beam, but she’s not much more fallsie than the other Russians, and she could very possibly be tapped to compete the event in the team final. Viktoria Komova has also made an impressive comeback, placing third in the All Around at both the Russian Nationals and the Russian Cup. She has a good, usable DTY that will likely be the leadoff vault in the team final, and a  FABULOUS bar routine, with a toe 1/1 to Maloney to Pak to Van Leeuwen combo. She fell on beam in the all around, but she still has the beautiful execution and a big skill in her standing Arabian. She also fell on floor, but she has retained her DLO and her DBA, along with some beautiful dance elements. Komova could potentially contribute four events in the team final and is an asset to the team.

Despite being known as a bars specialist, Anastasia Ilyankova placed second in the All Around at the Russian Cup, solidifying her spot on the team. Though she struggled with her Ezhova transition, she has a top three bars score as well as usable beam and floor sets.

With Melnikova, Simakova, Komova, and Ilyankova on the team, the lineups would look something like this….

VT: Komova, Melnikova, Simakova (Ilyankova)
UB: Komova, Melnikova, Ilyankova (Simakova)
BB: Ilyankova, ?, Melnikova (Simakova)
FX: Komova, Simakova, Melnikova (Ilyankova)

With this set of gymnasts, the only glaring hole is one spot on beam. The beam champion was Daria Elizarova, but she could only contribute one event, and is susceptible to being passed by the likes of Komova and Simakova, both of whom should definitely make the team. One name who could potentially pop up is Maria Kharenkova. Kharenkova did compete here, but she fell on both of her events, beam and floor. She popped off of the beam on her layout, crashed her DLO, and sat the punch front on her 2 1/2 to punch front on floor. If she could get her life together on these events, she would be a lock for the team. Unfortunately, she has proven time and time again that she is unreliable. That said, if she can pull it together by the time worlds roll around, I wouldn’t count her out.

Another option would be Tatiana Nabieva. Nabieva’s peak in the sport was in 2011, when she medaled on bars at worlds and possessed an Amanar. Tatiana has been hanging around the Russian gymnastics program since then, and managed to make the worlds team in 2014, winning a bronze medal with the Russian team. Nabieva placed FIFTH in the all around, with a good DTY (she received the highest vault score in the competition after Simakova fell) and a usable bars set, Nabs impressed me to no end. Sadly, her strengths happen to be where Russia is strongest, so a team spot is unlikely. That said, Nabieva should definitely receive an alternate spot, and if an injury occurs, she could definitely make the team.

Wrapping up, Angelina Melnikova, Angelina Simakova, Viktoria Komova, and Anastasia Ilyankova should definitely make the team, and the last spot could be snatched by any of Maria Kharenkova, Daria Elizarova, or Tatiana Nabieva. If healthy, either of Aliya Mustafina or Irina Alexeeva could grab it as well. Russia misses Elena Eremina and will hope for a strong return from her next year. If they stay consistent, they should be on the fast track to a team medal at Euros, and later, worlds.


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