Russia still has Heart and Hope

By which I mean Demy and Komova respectively.

The Russians had a successful national meet last week which has resulted in nominating the national team.
Ksenia Afanasieva qualified first (complete results) but as it often happens she did not have a great competition afterwards and the AA was won by a consistent Anna Dementyeva followed by Vika Komova (AA results). The individual titles went to Anna Pavlova (vault), Vika Komova (uneven bars and beam) and Ksenia Afanasieva (floor)  (event final results).

As a result, the squad for Tokyo is composed of: Anna Dementyeva, Victoria Komova, Iulia Belokobylskaya, Ksenia Afanasieva, Tatiana Nabieva, Maria Paseka - the alternates being Alyona Polyan and Iulia Inshina.

On the whole, this seems to be the only alternative for a team and very few gymnasts that could potentially contribute have been left out: Ksenia Semenova and Anna Pavlova being the more notable examples. I understand that Semenova was not in shape - she seems to be getting there but it is already late and she is lacking in difficulty while the few extra pounds have a damaging effect on her E scores. But Anna Pavlova is an odd case. Alexandrov seems to be discouraging her to continue on purpose. 

However, this will be a strong team:
Vika Komova will be a fantastic asset on beam and uneven bars especially because she has proved to be quite the competitor in the team finals and all around. With her D scores in the high mid 6's on uneven bars and breathtaking execution she will be approaching that 16 barrier on the apparatus and will also be one of the favorites for the event finals. On beam, although her D score is somewhere around 6.3 at the moment - her good execution and beautiful lines will help her score above 15.

European AA champion will also be in the spotlight as she is becoming quite the star gymnast - from the cute newcomer she was in 2010. Demy will be one of the favorites for the AA, as she now has a DTY (although not yet brilliant), her UB D score above 6 now, with a beam out of 6.7 and a floor of around 6 D score, all topped with polished presentation and a charming presence on the podium.

Let's not forget Iulia B - she's fantastic on floor (was third at Euros in the EF) and although did not manage to make a name for herself as an UB or BB worker, I can assure you she can surprise one or two people with her difficult routines (both of over 6.0 D).

Afanasyeva has a new floor routine. Much like her last year's routine, I love it because through her dance and choreo she manages to interpret the music, to "translate" it. On beam and uneven bars she is as inconsistent as ever and her DTY is not looking brilliant.

Photo credit: Brigid McCarthy
When I think about Nabieva, and I know it's such a clichee, I imagine this little stubborn face and Alexandrov telling her - "if you give me just one Amanar and one decent uneven bars number you are free to do whatever you want to do". I am sure she wants it too, but I am not sure she will be able to return to where she was last year, much less to top that. But stranger things have happened.

Paseka will be a mistery to me until Ghent CC. I will tell you more about her after that.

The alternates are quite strong too:  Alyona Polyan -  we saw she was good enough for a world team - at least as an alternate - at the Summer Universiade. Long story short, she was third in the AA and won floor. She is capable of 14+ scores on both FX and BB ( and this happened in an international competition!), has a weak uneven bars set.

Iulia Inshina was fifth AA, on BB and UB and second on floor at Russian Cup last week, Here is her uneven bars set:

So provided everybody does their job at Worlds, Russia will be more than just covered in all the right places. It's early so say if they have a shot at gold this year but they sure will be an extremely beautiful and balanced team.

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