State of the Russians Address

Viktoria Listunova is the 2021 Russian national champion. Certainly the greatest beneficiary of the postponed Olympics, the 2021 senior performed the closest thing this competition had to a clean two-day meet, establishing a large advantage over the mere peasants through a fully secure and confident performance on day 1, and then withstanding a beam fall during the parade of nightmares that was today’s all-around final to retain that #1 position.

But seriously, my summary of this all-around final is

with the subheading

It is predominately Listunova’s floor, which has scored 14.3+ on both days of competition (using a couple swigs of Russian domestic floor scoring) with a whip-whip-triple and difficult dance elements, that allows her to establish an all-around lead, though her other events have also clearly progressed since the last time we saw her in competition. In this meet, she transformed from Next Star to Current Star.

Mimicking the circumstances of 2019 junior worlds, Listunova held off a close all-around challenge from her partner in Russia-Saving, Vladislava Urazova. Urazova actually recorded the higher AA score on day 2 thanks to her clearly more comfortable DTY on vault and superior bars work, but beam struggles on both days of competition brought her totals “down” and allowed Listunova to stay ahead. Once again, parade of nightmares.

Nonetheless, Urazova is performing a back handspring mount directly connected to back handspring layout stepout on beam, and that deserves its time in the sun.

Through the first two days, this competition has not been as glorious for for Angelina Melnikova, who finished clearly behind her two new challengers in bronze position after falling on beam both days—day 1 on a wolf turn, day 2 on a split jump from side position—and struggling on bars both times as well, catching too close on her piked jaeger on the first day, and then getting through it on the second day only to botch a pirouette. Melnikova has, however, looked quite strong on floor and will be hoping to redeem the competition in some respect by continuing that in the event final.

Despite the falls, those three are currently 80 million steps above everyone else in the all-around right now, so basically if you’re penciling in your draft of a Russian Olympic team, it should be Melnikova, Listunova, Urazova, and whoever gives Valentina the largest barrel of moonshine that week.

Yana Vorona made a pretty good argument for herself on day 1 by sitting third in the all-around—ahead of Melnikova—but she had a wild collapse on day 2, falling on her DTY and falling on three different passes on floor to end up with just a 51.733. So that didn’t help. The Crow (her Google translate name) was, however, fairly solid on beam on both days, which basically counts as a saintly miracle at this meet, hitting her signature split jump to immediate front tuck both times.

There is certainly always a market for “someone we trust to hit beam” and she did that.

But also doing that was Elena Gerasimova, who hit beam twice to nestle herself ultimately into 4th place in the all-around. Gerasimova has fallen a bit behind the Listunova-Urazova duo with whom she rose the ranks because she doesn’t have the difficulty to keep up with them on vault and floor. That’s why she wouldn’t be viewed as the same kind of favorite to make an all-around-focused Olympic team, but she’s showing that she can nonetheless provide an important beam routine to support them.

Among the veterans who had a tougher time, Lilia Ahkaimova will not be pleased with her performance, ending up in 7th all-around after a 51 on day 2. Recently, Akhaimova has seemed a fairly likely nominee to get an individual Olympic spot even if she doesn’t end up contributing enough to make a four person team. Especially if Russia earns the full +2—which they will be heavily favored to do if Euros go on—a logical use of those two spots would be someone like Iliankova for bars (she qualified first into the bars final here and will also appear in the beam final), complemented by Akhaimova for vault and floor.

Thus far, however, Akhaimova has fallen on floor both days of competition and has struggled enough landing her handspring rudi that it’s not differentiating itself from the DTYs of the top all-arounders. Akhaimova will be in both the vault and floor finals (as well as the beam final, though that’s less important for her) and could use a recovery performance to finish out the competition.

A heartening 9th place in the final all-around standings belonged to Elena Eremina, who went through the competition hitting pretty solidly for her current routine competition. She’s not able to do anywhere close to 2017 difficulty anymore, but this is the most comfortable we’ve seen her look with her Career Part 2 routines. She’s now in her “I’m doing NCAA composition and hitting with it” phase. Valentina celebrated this by not looking up from her iPad for the entirety of her floor routine.

In qualification, Maria Kharenkova injured herself in the takeoff on her opening double pike on floor, an injury that has now been confirmed as an Achilles. Helpfully, no one came up to the floor to assist her in her time of need, so she just kind of had to slowly log roll off the FX. It was saddest of times, it was also kind of the funniest of times. But mostly saddest. Kharenkova had actually qualified for the beam final as well, so that extra sucks.

There are some Olympic implications to this injury as well as Kharenkova is currently the second alternate for an Olympic spot if any athletes who qualified for themselves through the 2019 worlds AA are forced to pull out. Her position would also become significant if the European Championships are ultimately canceled this year, in which case those Olympic spots set aside for Europe are supposed go to Megan Ryan (IRL) and Maria Kharenkova (GEO) based on their results from 2019 worlds. (Argyro Afrati of Greece would then be next in line.)

In conclusion, Uliana Perebinosova was the true beam champion.

Event final will stream here on Saturday and Sunday.

37 thoughts on “State of the Russians Address”

  1. I always wonder if Russia actually trains, or if they just go to meets and hope for the best. In between trips to the surgeon in Munich.

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  2. Fortunately Russia had brought in some NCAA judges, so those floor corner elements were not ruled as falls nor as out of bounds. Don’t worry, those same NCAA judges made it back to the US in time for their renowned college meet scoring.

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  3. The second I watched Perebinosova’s beam routine, I couldn’t wait for the GIF to show up here. Spencer never disappoints.

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  4. According to the Olympic Channel bonus content, Melnikova only recently got back to training after a week off for eye surgery. So hopefully she cleans up and adds back the difficulty in the next few months.

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  5. Listanova
    Melnikova
    Urasova
    AA in TF from two, with the weakest BB routine from TQ replaced by Gerasimova in TF)
    Gerasimova (BB only in TF) Can anchor VT/FX and scratch if the other three are countable scores.

    Vorona- non traveling alternate

    Akhaimova AA and Iliankova (UB) for the +2. Akhaimova makes sense because if there is an injury while in Tokyo, she can be subbed into the team up until the competition deadline.

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    1. Akhaimova has no shot at a medal. If she isn’t on the team it makes no sense to bring her. I’d say better to bring two bars girls (Ilyankova and Minaeva)

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      1. Exactly. Vorona has much more shot at an individual medal on beam than anyone except Ilyankova and maaaybe Melnikova. Listunova’s floor is most emphatically Not All THAT.

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      2. Russia has very low chances at a beam medal between the Chinese and the Americans. And if they were to get one I’d imagine it would be Gerasimova not Vorona. I would be shocked if Vorona made the individual spot.

        To me the only possible medal contenders outside of the big 3 are Ilyankova (UB), Minaeva (UB), and maybe Gerasimova (BB), so they are the only options for the individual spots. Vorona or Akhaimova could make the main team instead of Gera, but the only possible other option I could imagine for the individual spot is if Agafonova reappears with her 2019 bars.

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      3. @Russia Fan Honest and not snarky question: what do you see in Gerasimova? I’ve rarely seen a less talented Russian being bandied about as a serious contender for a team or, even more unlikely, an individual medal! And, while we’re at it, what individual medals do you think are even possible for Listunova or Urazova? Urazova has a good beam routine which she can’t hit, and no one on the Russian team other than Ilyankova even has a chance of making an Olympic bars final. Biles and Carey will win vault and floor gold and silver and there are a few other contenders for bronze with much harder routines than the Russians.

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      4. I like Carey but I don’t think she is a lock for FX and VT silver the way Simone is for gold. There are a lot of other stronger FX and VT workers who are close-ish to Carey and Carey’s execution can be pretty variable. I imagine she’s improved since then but obviously we all know she got edged from the FX final in 2019 by Lee, and should’ve been bronze behind Downie in the VT final.

        That said I truly can’t imagine Akhaimova challenging her on either, ever. I do think Akhaimova could have a place on the team though if she can perform the way she did in the first half of 2019 worlds. I could not believe how much better she was than in her past appearances.

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      5. @Anon 11:54 I don’t think Gerasimova is on the same level as Listunova, Urazova, or even Vorona in terms of talent. BUT she is at another level above every other Russian in terms of beam consistency which is what they desperately need. I don’t really see Gerasimova or Vorona as contenders for a beam medal, but either one has a decent chance at making the final. But Vorona cannot be counted on in a TF situation.

        Urazova and Listunova both have 6.3 UB routines, Minaeva will have 6.3 when she adds the Shang. llyankova is also at 6.3 so really any of them could make the final.

        Also, Listunova could definitely medal in the AA. She got insanely high execution scores at junior worlds and I imagine that will continue. Urazova – I don’t see it happening with her beam and floor but we’ll see how they score at Euros.

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      6. @Russia Fan Thanks. I can see most of that except Listunova’s insanely high E scores, which I think rival the worst gifts Mustafina was given for so many years. Listunova’s floor is Russian-juniory in every way and she can’t even do a full-in (at least Mustafina had legit tumbling difficulty a billion years ago.). I actually find Urazova twice as talented, but inconsistent.

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      7. Completely disagree on Akhaimova.
        She made both VT and FX finals in Stuttgart.

        While she ended up 7th on VT and is an outside chance at a medal, she is capable of being in VT finals and we have seen VT finals get interesting in the past if one of two gymnasts fall on a vault.

        She has a legitimate chance at a FX medal. While she was 8th in Stuttgart she also had two major mistakes and still ended up with a 13.500. Her FX was the 2nd highest start value in that final, (6.0) and had she hit her first pass (-.3 ND out of bounds) she would have had a 13.800, not to mention the execution deductions taken on that pass. It could have easily gone 14.0 and potentially taken the bronze over Melnikova.

        Makes zero sense to bring two UB girls when Melnikova, Listunova, and Urasova are capable of making those finals as they just went 1-3 at Nationals with Urazova going 15.000 with Russian bonus. Minaeva was just 4th with a 14.500 (prelims 14.433 and AA finals 14.100) and won’t even make finals at the Olympics. So why bother with Minaeva as it is a complete waste. The Russians will end up 2 per’ing each other. It is the same scenario that Skinner is in, makes no sense to bring her for VT when Carey and Biles will end up 2 per’ing her.

        Besides that, Russia would only have a chance at one medal anyway. Derwael and Sunisa are locks for 1-2 if they both hit.

        So you might as well give a VT/FX a chance since only Melnikova will have 2 competitive vaults.

        But yeah, to say Akhaimova has no shot at an individual medal is incorrect. Anything can happen in an Olympic event final. Akhaimova has demonstrated that she can make an event final.

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      8. @Sally You’re deluded. Akhaimova fell both days on floor, has nothing like the unimpressive tumbling difficulty she even used to have, and has been out of the loop for ages. Biles, Carey, Lee, Skinner, DJDS, Iordache, etc etc etc would ALL beat her with FALLS in their routines.

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    2. Nope. Gerasimova is mediocre with extremely mediocre difficulty on all events. Vorona has the *big* beam routine. Gerasimova’s beam is in no way preferable and Vorona just had a bad day.

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      1. @Anon Gerasimova won’t be on the team because of her beam medal potential but because she’s consistent while being “good enough.” Yes her routine is only 6.0 while Vorona’s is 6.3, but Vorona’s routine construction is very poor (either of her rings get discredited and her D-score plummets, Eaker-style), and more importantly she is not consistent enough, at least to this point in her career, to be trusted on Russia’s weakest event. The only way I see Vorona beating Gerasimova for the main team is if they’re worried about Urazova’s vault and want another DTY.

        That being said, Vorona could certainly fight for the individual spot. It helps her that bars is very crowded (Melnikova, Urazova, Ilyankova) which means she could be favored over Minaeva.

        I hope that Russia sends both Vorona and Gerasimova to Euros instead of Minaeva or Akhaimova to see how their beams get evaluated internationally against Iordache, MDJDS, etc. that could help them decide

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      2. @Matt That’s lamentable. Great pity about Vorona’s construction, although it would be hard to find someone worse at ring jumps than Eaker LOL! Gerasimova has a 6.0?? from *what*? talk about code whoring. They should be worried about Urazova’s vault, from what I’ve seen. You should also take into account that this is Valentina we’re talking about, not even Marta who at least (vile though she was and is) had a track record. I’m not altogether convinced Valentina cares about anything but the biggest barrel of moonshine Spencer mentioned.

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    1. I mean she only hit 4/8 really while Urazova hit 7/8. At her best Melnikova is definitely better on vault and floor, is even on beam, and maybe a bit behind on bars. I think if they all hit 4/4 in QF in Tokyo it will be Urazova sitting out. But let’s be honest I doubt all 3 of them will hit beam lol

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  6. I’m reading that Viktoria Listunova had a bout with COVID that kept her out for a month so she’s not competing everything she can. She’s hoping to add more difficulty for Europeans.

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  7. Yes, but Vorona’s beam routine is both the hardest individual one on view (unless Ilyankova has way upped the difficulty) and probably the best performed event routine, at least from what I’ve seen. They NEED that beam routine and that two splits-front tuck. Not that common sense or intelligence have anything to do with Valentina.

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    1. They don’t need a routine that is going to result in a fall though.
      Vorona needs to start hitting.

      I also think Valentina is wasting a spot by sending all 3 to compete at Euros (Melnikova, Listunova, Urasova) as they can only earn a +1.

      I would send Listunova, Urasova, Vorona, Geraminasova to see how they fare at the senior level. Also it gives an opportunity to compare Vorona vs Geraminasova.

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      1. Vorona just hit twice on beam. And, of course, the rest of the girls were a total splatfest on beam other than the mediocre low-difficulty Gerasimova. It helps if you read the article you’re trying to comment on.

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      2. Why can’t they send the 4 new seniors + Melnikova? Melnikova deserves to go, she could medal in AA, bars, floor, just like Listunova. If Akhaimova was in good condition then yes she should go because she can medal on vault in the European field, but with her current form Melnikova, Urazova, Listunova, Gerasimova, Vorona is certainly the best team both for medal count and to test Gerasimova vs. Vorona beam as you said

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      3. @Anon 5:44 pm-
        It’s obvious you don’t know Russian gymnastics that well.

        Vorona has a history of inconsistency and Geraminasova has a history of hitting when it counts.

        Vorona did hit BB two days in a row with a 14.133 in team and a 14.433 in the all around final. BUT she did fall in event finals for a 12.600.

        Meanwhile, Geraminasova scored 14.266 in team, all around, and event finals. She also is the 2019 World Junior Beam champion, so she can handle the pressure of a big meet. That is the type of BB consistency you need.

        You might call her mediocre, but she handles her low-difficulty well and hits beam every time. She is who the Russians need to lead off beam in team finals.

        Educate yourself on Russian Gymnastics.
        Thanks.

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      4. @Anonymous
        MARCH 13, 2021 AT 2:20 PM

        Since it is an individual Europeans, I believe NOC are limited to 4 athletes. The format has changed few times, but it is likely 4 per country, 3 per apparatus, max 2 to the AA final.

        Melnikova has plenty of experience and doesn’t need to go, in my opinion. But you are right, she does deserve to go.

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      5. @Sally Dream on, sweetie. Russia has zero chance of any medals anywhere if they put Level 10 mediocrities like Gerasimova on the team. Educate yourself on international gymastics meets and how they are scored, among other things.

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      6. @Sally Of course you haven’t even noticed Gerasimova has DOWNGRADED her beam routine as well as most of the others since world juniors TWO YEARS AGO. Two years in gymnastics is an eternity, but you wouldn’t know that either, now would you? What exactly do you know? How to cross the street alone, perhaps?

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  8. Melnikova looks a bit frail and seems to have lost some power… Did she have COVID? I read that she had the eye surgery, but does anyone else know if something else is keeping her from being fully healthy? I follow her on IG but haven’t seen anything (obviously I don’t speak Russian though!).

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  9. It will be very interesting to see the strategy Russia goes for this Olympics. The US women will most likely, at the very least, take the following medals: 1 team (gold), 1 all around, 2 vault, 1 uneven, 1 beam, and 2 floor. Of course, there is even more potential for second medals in the all around, bars, and beam. In a perfect meet for the US women, they could take 2 medals in each event except team.

    Based on the lack of consistency the Russians have been showing on every event lately, and the extreme difficulty of getting individual medals at this upcoming Olympics, I would think the best team construction is one that maximizes the chances of team silver. While the top 3 Russian women can win a medal, they will have to show a level of consistency across qualification and the AA that they haven’t shown yet recently.

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    1. Exactly. Even the ‘top’ Russians have about a one in ten to fifteen chance of any individual medals. Ilyankova was their best shot and she ain’t what she used to be. Listunova’s no-tumbling floor isn’t medalling nor is Urazova’s fall-ridden beam, and as for Melka she’s WAY over the hill and shows it. Russia should focus on a team medal–the only one that is at all even reasonably possible.

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