2. Aliya Mustafina, Russia
Aliya Fargatovna Mustafina was born on 30th September 1994. She is a Russian artistic gymnast who is the 2010 World individual all-around champion and the 2012 Olympic uneven bars champion. Mustafina was the most decorated gymnast, male or female, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, having won four medals including the silver in the team all-around, the bronze in the individual all-around final, the gold in the uneven bars final, and the bronze in the floor final.
Aliya Mustafina was born in a middle class family on 30 September 1994 in Yegoryevsk, Russia. Her father, ethnic Tatar, Farhat Mustafin, was a bronze medalist at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling, and her mother Yelena Mustafina is a physics teacher. Her younger sister, Nailya, is also a gymnast and a member of Russia’s junior team.
Asked about being compared with the former great Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, Mustafina said, “I have no idols and never have. Svetlana was, of course, an amazing gymnast”.
About her gymnastics role models, Mustafina said, “I like Nastia Liukin, I adore her elegant and beautiful performances with difficult elements. I like especially her graceful uneven bars and balance beam. Among the Russians, I like Ksenia Afanasyeva. I respect her strong and beautiful gymnastics.”
Her coach since 2008, Alexander Alexandrov, said, “The girl is very talented, but with a difficult character. However, you don’t find much complacency among champions.”
In March 2010, Mustafina was injured during a training session prior to the Russian National Championships and was unable to compete.
In April, Mustafina competed at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup event in Paris, France. She placed fourth on uneven bars scoring 14.500 and second on balance beam scoring 14.175.
At the end of April, Mustafina competed at the European Championships in Birmingham, United Kingdom. She contributed an all around score of 58.175 toward the Russian team’s first place finish. In event finals, she placed second on uneven bars scoring 15.050, second on balance beam scoring 14.375, and eighth on floor scoring 13.225.
In August, Mustafina competed at the Russian Cup in Chelyabinsk, Russia. She won the all around competition with a score of 62.271. Russian coach, Valentina Rodionenko said, “Bravo Aliya, she won by a wide margin. We have tried hard, she was trying very hard, and here the results are apparent!” In event finals, she placed second on vault scoring 13.963, first on uneven bars scoring 14.775, third on balance beam scoring 14.850, and first on floor scoring 15.300.
In October, Mustafina competed at the World Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She contributed an all around score of 60.932 toward the Russian team’s first place finish and individually she won the all around competition with a score of 61.032. In event finals, she placed second on vault scoring 15.066, second on uneven bars scoring 15.600, seventh on balance beam scoring 13.766, and second on floor scoring 14.766. Andy Thornton from Universal Sports stated, “The story behind Aliya Mustafina’s all-around gold today is that of a revived dynasty; the dominant Soviet women’s team of the 1980s and early 1990s – whom many consider to represent the absolute epitome of artistic gymnastics – was dead and now reborn. In addition to leading her teammates to their country’s first world title as an independent nation, Mustafina has delivered one of the great performances by a female gymnast ever – capturing the very same artistry, difficulty, and competitive composure that made her Soviet predecessors so beloved and revered. Mustafina’s four-event arsenal is so well balanced it’s hard to pick a favorite event to watch her on, and a win so convincing and undeniable as hers gives a satisfying sense of closure to a competition. She has established herself and her Russian teammates as the absolute gymnasts to watch over the next two years – and the gymnasts to beat.”
In November, Mustafina competed in the “Freddy Cup” Italian Grand Prix in Cagliari, Sardinia. She placed fourth on uneven bars scoring 13.570 and first on balance beam scoring 14.7
In March, Mustafina competed at the American Cup in Jacksonville, United States. She placed second in the all around competition with a score of 59.831.Later in March, Mustafina competed at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup event in Paris, France. She placed second on
vault scoring 14.433, first on uneven bars scoring 15.833, and first on balance beam scoring 15.333.
In April, Mustafina competed at the European Championships Berlin, Germany. She qualified in first place for the all around final with a score of 59.750 but during the final she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee while landing an Amanar vault. Russian coach, Valentina Rodionenko said, “It was thought to be an injured meniscus. The diagnosis was clarified through the imaging: rupture of the left anterior cruciate ligament. Aliya spent the night in the hospital and in the morning she was allowed to return to the hotel. They put on a tight bandage so there would be no swelling, because a lot of swelling causes problems for the surgery. Yesterday, Aliya came to the competition, rooting for our guys and girls. She also came today, of course. She’s going through the normal emotional and psychological experience! She’s a bright, capable child, and understands everything. Yes, the injury is serious. Bad, but not terrible. It requires surgery.”
Five days later, Mustafina had surgery at Sporthopaedicum in Straubing, Germany performed by German surgeon Dr. Michael J. Strobel. After the operation, Mustafina said, “I ache a little, but not too much, yesterday was worse. And I have strong pain killers. Thanks to the Internet I’ve been communicating with friends and time flies quickly, so there’s less focus on the pain. Tatiana Nabieva called me here today on Skype, and I talked a lot with the other girls.” Russian coach, Andrei Rodionenko said, “Aliya feels good. She feels positive and wants to get back home. The doctor said that the operation was successful, including the improved position of the meniscus, and the post-operative MRI confirmed what they said. On Friday there will be the post-op examination, and after that we will learn when we can leave the clinic. We must say thank you so much to Dr. Strobel. He said his surgeries are booked for the next six months but he got involved with us and immediately arranged to help Aliya. And this is something not everyone can recover from. Therefore, all advice will be strictly followed. Maybe from a medical perspective it’s not that complicated. The typical man recovers from this surgery 100 percent. But Aliya has a serious athletic career ahead of her. Therefore, we chose the clinic and the doctor very carefully. And we decided on Straubing – they not only operate perfectly, but they have perfected the rehabilitation process so I understand.”
In May, Mustafina returned to Germany for a check-up on her knee. Valentina Rodionenko said, “The doctor who operated on Aliya is pleased with how she’s recovering.” She later added, “(We) are not going to force things. Her treatment must go as is. We have decided to trust in the advice of the expert who operated on her in Munich. We will follow through. And only when we are told that she can proceed with training will we go forward. It’s important to save her for the Olympic Games.”
In July, Mustafina was only doing upper body conditioning and rehabilitation on her leg. Alexander Alexandrov said, “The German doctors recommended completely avoiding any loading whatsoever on the leg she had the operation on, because in order for the knee to recover fully, it cannot be forced at all. So, Aliya is not doing any exercises that include jumping. First the leg has to be brought back into shape and the muscle functions need to be recovered. That is pretty dreary work.”
In August, after in the Russian team was announced for World Championships, Valentina Rodionenko said, “Aliya really wanted to go to worlds — her heart and soul are literally crying, ‘I can do it! I’m ready!’ But we do not want to risk costing her the Olympics, and her surgeon in Germany said that she can start real training only in December. She just thinks she’s ready now. But she does not really understand what she will face. She must be protected. Sometimes it takes years for people to recover from these injuries, and she hasn’t even had five months.”
In December, Mustafina returned to competition at the Voronin Cup in Moscow, Russia. She placed fourth in the all around and second on uneven bars with a score of 15.475. She said, “I am happy with the competition and my performance. I really wanted to compete because it’s the first start after the April injury. Of course, there are still some limitations I encounter during training. We can say that my recovery is still ongoing.” Alexander Alexandrov added, “I was pleasantly surprised and happy about her first meet. She didn’t do her full routines and full difficulty, but she tried what she was ready for at the time and for me it was enough to see. She was nervous, even though her goal was just to compete, to see how she does after eight months off and how well she could handle the pressure and how her knee would feel. I came up up to her and said, ‘Well, it seems like you’re not very nervous at all and I’m surprised!’ and she said, ‘Look at my hands, Alexander!’ and her hands were shaking. ‘Maybe I’m not showing that I’m nervous, but inside I have butterflies!’
In March 2012, Mustafina competed at the Russian National Championships in Penza, Russia. Before the competition, Alexander Alexandrov said, “Right now we don’t want to force her back. Even in March at the Russian championships I’m not expecting her to be in 100 percent shape, probably 75 to 80 percent. Today she has all her skills but they are not all together (ready for competition). On vault she’s doing soft landings and she also hasn’t shown her new skills on bars. It’s going to be a work in progress — the main goal is the Olympics.” She won the all around competition with a score of 59.533. In event finals, she placed first on uneven bars scoring 16.220 and fifth on balance beam scoring 13.680.
In May, Mustafina competed at the European Championships in Brussels, Belgium. She contributed scores of 15.166 on vault, 15.833 on uneven bars, and 13.933 on floor toward the Russian team’s second place finish.
In June, Mustafina competed at the Russian Cup in Penza, Russia. She placed second in the all around competition with a score of 59.167. In event finals, she placed first on uneven bars scoring 16.150, second on balance beam scoring 15.000, and first on floor scoring 14.750.
At the end of July, Mustafina competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. She helped the Russian team qualify in second place and individually she qualified to the all around final in fifth place with a score of 59.966. She also qualified in fifth placed for the uneven bars final scoring 15.700 and in eighth place for the floor final scoring 14.433. In the team final, Mustafina contributed an all around score of 60.266 towards the Russian team’s second place finish.
In the all around final, Mustafina finished in third place with a score of 59.566. She was tied with American Aly Raisman but after tie-breaking rules Mustafina was awarded with the bronze medal. She said, “I performed well apart from the beam but I was not totally confident that I would get a medal, even a Bronze – any fall is very bad and it is very difficult to finish in the top three after a fall like that.”
In the uneven bars final, Mustafina won the gold medal with a score of 16.133. She said, “I did not believe I could do it. Of course when I got the bronze medal I became more confident. I am very happy and very happy to be following in the Russian tradition.” She added, “I am very, very happy I’ve won gold. Every medal represents its own thing. I was hoping very much to win and I was very happy with my routine. I didn’t know what to expect of myself today.” Mustafina’s gold medal in the uneven bars final ended Russia’s Olympic gymnastics gold medal drought that lasted for twelve years.
In the floor final, Mustafina placed third with a score of 14.900. Her score was the same as Italian Vanessa Ferrari but after tie-breaking procedures Mustafina was awarded the bronze medal. She said, “I didn’t expect a medal when I did my floor exercise but I liked how the competition ended. I’m very happy and very tired.”
On August 7, 2012, The Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov has congratulated Aliya, following the Olympic success. On August 15, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Mustafina the Order of Friendship at a special ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow for her achievements at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was one of 33 Russian athletes to receive the award.