The Russian cup will be held front September 16 to September 20 in Penza and it will be an important part of the selection process for the worlds team. As it was previously announced, Aliya Mustafina is not going to participate in this competition but all the other top gymnasts of the country are set to compete. The field includes two times medalists Viktoria Komova and Maria Paseka, two times world champion Tatiana Nabieva, two times Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva, European champion Maria Kharenkova and European Games champion Seda Tutkhalyan as well as junior stand outs Daria Skrypnik, Angelina Melnikova and Natalia Kapitonova. However, there are also some great surprises in the list since some athletes we haven’t seen in a while are planning to compete.
Firstly, 2014 European and world bronze medalist Alla Sosnitskaya is expected to return to the competition floor after missing the biggest part of the season due to injuries. She was Russia’s savior on vault and floor last year and she had impressive skills on those events, like a double layout, two whips into a triple twist and a cheng. She was also capable of solid bars and beam sets and she showed good All Around potential. After having the most successful 2014 she possibly could have, winning multiple national medals and qualifying to world and European finals, Alla was expected to fight for a spot on the podium at the 2015 European championships. Unfortunately, an ankle injury got her out of this, or any other competition until now. This was really a shame, especially because she had a very realistic chance to shine at both the European championships and the European Games. We haven’t had many news from her training and we have no idea in what shape she is right now so it will be very interesting to see how she does. The truth is that around one month before worlds, it will be difficult for her to catch up with the rest of the team. However, if she has regained her old difficulty on vault and floor (which is probably unlikely) she can be a strong contender.
An other powerful vaulter and tumbler who is making her comeback at the Russian Cup is the lovely Anastasia Sidorova. She may be an unfamiliar name for people who started following the sport during this quad but if this is the case you should definitely look her up. Back in 2010, Sidorova, Komova and Grishina were suppose to save the face of Russian gymnastics along with Nabieva, Afanasyeva and Mustafina. Nastya showed great potential on three events. She had a powerful double twisting yurchenko on vault, a high layout and a beautiful altitude turn on beam and a powerful 1.5 + triple full and a piked full in combination on floor. She was training exciting skills like an amanar, a double layout and 3.5 twists but she was never able to compete any of them, partly due to injuries. As a senior, she helped her country win a silver medal at the 2012 European and she was in contention for the Olympic Games. Unfortunately she never made it that far and injuries prevented her from reaching her full potential and shining during the current quad. We haven’t seen much of her since she partially tore her ACL in the beginning of the quad so seeing her name on the list is a big surprise. Sidorova has trained some difficult elements, like a double twisting yurchenko and she has participated in minor competitions, showing relatively easy tumbling passes. I’m not sure what her goals are. Maybe she’s hoping to be part of the discussion for next year’s Olympic team or maybe she’s just enjoying the sport and she wants to get out there and compete against her country’s top gymnasts. No matter what her plans are, I’m very excited to see her competing again.
The most exciting name on the list is probably 2012 Olympian Anastasia Grishina. Nastya has always been a super star and from the age of 13 it was clear that she had this special something that separates a good gymnast from a great one. She had a style and a presence reminiscent of the soviet legends of the past, and her gorgeous flexibility and fantastic artistry was like a breath of fresh air in an era where most athletes did not pay that much attention in dance and presentation. In addition to that, she had impressive difficulty on bars and beam and she showed original skills and combinations. She was elegant, she was graceful, she was extremely clean and she was unique. However, this didn’t seem to be enough for her to have an excellent career since injuries and inconsistency caused her lots of problems. After a disappointing Olympic Games she made some big changes in her training and that seemed to be working out for her since she showed clean, solid routines to win world cup and European medals during the first half of 2013. However, an injury prevented her from participating in the world championships. She returned to competition in 2014, but before she could fight for a spot in any major teams she was injured again. This time it was a knee injury that kept her out for more than a year. The Russian Cup is going to be her first competition back and words can’t express how excited I am. I obviously don’t expect her to win the All Around title but I do expect her to bring beauty to this competition and to light up the entire arena with her performances. After being injured for the biggest part of the quad, it’s very unlikely for Grishina to be anywhere near ready to fight for a spot in Russia’s world team. However, she can prove that she is on the right path and that she has a chance to be in the mix next year.
An other beautiful athlete returning to the Russian Cup is 17-years-old Viktoria Kuzmina. As a junior, she represented Russia in lots of major competitions, like the European championships, the European Youth Olympic festival, the Gymnasiade and the Elite Massilia, winning multiple medals. She had beautiful artistry and flexibility, she competed difficult skills, like an inbar half to jaeger, a double front dismount, a round of + layout, a switch ring and a side aerial + front aerial + sheep jump combination and she showed the potential to become a strong bars and beam specialist for Russia in the future. Of course, it’s never that simple for a Russian junior and Vika struggled with injuries that slowed down her progress. During her first year as a senior, she posted big scores in minor competitions for routines we never got to see but she didn’t participate in any major national or international competitions.