Russia Reveals Gymnastics Olympic Squad Members

Russian Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Team

Following the conclusion of the 2016 Russian Cup in Penza on Sunday, Russia revealed the athletes that will be a part of the Olympic team that will compete in Rio this August. However, the lineup of the women’s team is not yet final and may change depending on the condition of two-time Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva.

Russian Olympic Team

The Russian men’s and women’s artistic team both placed fourth at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow last year and first at the European Championships this year in Bern. At the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August, it is anticipated that Russia will be competing for several medals, including both the men’s and women’s team competitions.

Russia, who placed sixth at the previous Olympic Games in London, plans to send the same men’s team that acquired the European championship gold medal in May: Denis Ablyazin, David Belvasky, Nikita Ignatyev, Nikolai Kuksenkov and Nikita Nagornyy. Ivan Stetovich and Vladislav Polyashov were assigned as Olympic alternates due to their strong performances on Sunday in Penza where Polyashov placed second in the All-around event and Stretovich won the gold medal in the high bar and parallel bars.

Ablyazin clinched two medals at the London Olympic Games in 2012, where he achieved a bronze medal on the Floor exercise and silver medal on the Vault. Belyavsky, the 2012 European all-around champion and the defending European Parallel Bars champion, will compete in his second Olympic competition.

Kuksenkov, who was a part of the gold medal-winning team at the inaugural European Games in Baku last year, was originally a part of the Ukrainian team but has moved to the Russian team since 2013. Nagornny and Ignatyev will compete for their first-ever Olympic Games this August. Nagornny acquired five medals (which includes three golds) at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, and is the defending European title holder on Floor exercise.

Russian Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Team

The Russian women’s team is currently composed of Angelina Melnikova, Aliya Mustafina, Maria Paseka, Daria Spiridonova and Seda Tutkhalyan. The current team is almost the same as the team that competed in the European Games in Bern, where Afanasyeva competed instead of Paseka.

Afanasyeva is currently assigned as an Olympic alternate along with the Russian floor exercise gold medalist Lilia Akhaimova. Russian Cup uneven bars champion Natalia Kapitonova also remains in the mix, said Russian coach Andrei Rodionenko.

Aliya Mustafina

Melnikova, who obtained the all-around gold medals at this years Russian Championships and Russian Cup, has been recognized as one of the brightest hopes for Rio. Tutkhalyan, the title winner of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, has a high level of difficulty, but due to her inconsistent performances, she is most likely to be bumped in favor of Afanasyeva.

“The composition of the Russian women’s gymnastics team has been settled for a long time in principle,” the Russian head coach said. “But a lot will depend on the health of Mustafina and Afanasyeva. The Olympics is a long competition, and we must make sure that they will be in shape the whole time.”

Afanasyeva has suffered from a chronic ankle injury the past few years, and it will be decided next week if she will compete along with the Russian national team. Last month in Germany, she underwent minor surgery to clean up the ankle, and the surgeon will travel to Moscow soon to assess whether she is eligible to handle the final push to the Olympics. The 2015 Russian Championships Floor exercise gold medalist acted as the leader of the Russian team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where the women acquired the team silver. Afanasyeva is greatly needed by the national team because of her specialization on the Floor exercise – Russia’s weakest apparatus.

The Russian team plans to travel to Rio de Janeiro 12 days ahead of the competition’s start. The Russian men’s team will compete in the third and final subdivision in qualification, and the women will compete in the second of five subdivisions.

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