We Need to Talk about Aliya’s Comeback

You guys.

Aliya’s back.

And basically has already been named to the Russian worlds team.

Aliya: [Yawn] [Cough]
Valentina: You’re hired! My footstool is named Varvara Zubova.

Aliya Mustafina gave birth to a human(?) child 30 seconds ago and apparently immediately began using the umbilical cord for resistance training because she’s already back to competition, returning at last weekend’s Russian Championship to finish 4th all-around and join hands with Komova as they joyously dashed the dream of every other Russian who thought she might make another team ever.

Ilyankova: I finished 3rd at Jesolo! I am on the ris—
Aliya: [SMACK] NO. Back in your box.

Mustafina is certainly not yet at full strength or endurance (though this was not altogether dissimilar to a typical Aliya podium training performance), but I was impressed to see how close she already is to being back at international-competition level, and by seeing her go for a DTY and some real floor tumbling like the double arabian. I more expected this to be a UB/BB-focused return to competition with maybe a courtesy layout on the leggier events, but she did much more than a courtesy layout, enough to get a competitive all-around score on the first day. 

The Russian Championship is a lengthy competition, and fatigue clearly set in as the days progressed. Vault began with a fairly Musty-legged, but nonetheless reasonable, DTY that made everyone go, “Damn, our lady’s not messing around.”

As the competition went on, that vault turned into a “this heron has been shot out of the sky” tribute to Nabieva, more the vault we would expect from someone who hadn’t been training for very long, so there’s still work to do…

…but the opening standard has been set, and the standard is already top-5 in the country.

As expected, bars is currently her farthest along, which has never not been true. It’s #butherinbars, but is also already a set that could make an event final at worlds, even without them.

Fatigue didn’t really set in on bars until the second half of her event finals routine (her third of the competition), when the wall was hit and MOMMY NEEDED A NAP LIKE NOW.

But really, this has gone far too long without discussing what we’re all actually here for, the acro series situation. It’s not better at all, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Right now, Aliya is attempting the NCAA standard front aerial + back handspring, and in the all-around, it did not go…awesome.

Obviously, if this were NCAA, Carol would be like, “That’s the best acro series I’ve ever seen” and throw roses or whatever, but rest assured that the competition within a competition of whether Aliya is going to get credit for (slash even attempt) an acro series is still alive and well. And sometimes she can sort of!

We’re gonna be OK.

Hers is nonetheless already the beam routine I trust the most because of Russia.

At the end of the comeback meet, we can say that Mustafina is farther along than expected and farther along than some of her compatriots who have been training continuously. With another six months under her belt, there’s no reason based on this to expect she won’t become one of the top AA threats in the world again. It’s also critical for Russia that Mustafina and Komova are showing an attempt at competitive difficulty on vault and floor, which—should floor come together for both—would make the prospect of selecting a complete Euros/worlds team of five that fulfills the necessary scores on all four events much more realistic. Though it’s bad news for the bars specialists, who are made totally redundant. Sorry ladies.

Komova has been back a little longer than Mustafina, and is in a pretty similar position overall. She has a DTY again that looks usable, and her bars routine is well executed enough to be right there with the more competitive international sets, even if the D isn’t yet at an expected Komova level.

Komova performed some bigger tumbling on floor with a DLO and double Arabian to try to show a D that isn’t entirely reliant on turns, and while it was a medium amount of terrifying and is still the question mark in her current repertoire, I definitely didn’t think we’d see Komova throwing DLOs again. (Because remember that time Valentina was just like, “You’re retired! Give me a back massage”?) Komova is making a real run at the AA again, and this was another solid benchmark to set, four months out from Euros and six months out from worlds.

Also this beautiful wobble-burger of a beam routine is basically the mascot of Russian gymnastics.

A troubling development at the Russian Championship was the struggle-bus performance of Maria Kharenkova, who went just 12.1 on floor the first day and 11.3 on beam in the event final, not really making her case when a golden opportunity has been presented to make that case. As we all started formulate team ideas shaped like Mustafina, Komova, Melnikova, Simakova, Kharenkova (which would be a very even-strength team with sufficient contingency plans on beam and floor should someone fall apart mentally or physically), Kharenkova didn’t really get herself out of Valentina’s on-and-off-and-on-again doghouse with that one.

Irina Alexeeva, who showed up like a total FOREIGNER, to FOREIGN her way through the competition with her AMERICAN FOREIGNNESS, finished a respectable 7th AA in her first Russian domestic competition, also taking silver on bars and bronze on floor to show that she could be a legitimate option for Russia if they ever decide to use her. The concern for Alexeeva’s Russian prospects have always been the question of whether Russia would select someone who trains in the US and isn’t part of the system. I do think Alexeeva would have to be in “so good that you can’t not take her” territory to override that, but she proved she can’t just be dismissed with this showing.

But also Aliya.

5 thoughts on “We Need to Talk about Aliya’s Comeback”

  1. Omg, Aliya impressed me sm. DTY? After giving birth? Girl, you go. Also, Komova’s glass ankles will break for euros/worlds, so we can basically count her out. Perebisnova/Ilyankova can think about making the team.

  2. The Queen is back. Gymnastics is not the same without Aliya. She’s in a class by herself. Yay! And her acro series!!!! OMG! The drama continues. I love this girl.

  3. I would love a team of Mustafina/Komova/Melnikova/Simakova/Akhaimova with Komova doing VT/UB/BB and Akhaimova for FX

  4. How is Aliya not wetting herself on a DTY? Maybe I just had a little more internal damage from giving birth than she does? ‘Cause I can’t even jump on a tramp for 2 min without peeing a little. Maybe she has a leo made out of that Thinx fabric.

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