Monday 13 October 2014

Aliya Mustafina's interview translated

Translated by Lauren C ( translater's notes/explanations in Italics)

I didn't expect anything today. On beam I was lucky. On floor I had nothing to lose so I decided to go for the harder routine. Today was a reminder that I need to keep moving forward. I can't compete with my current repertoire; I know that. It's hard to learn new elements at my age. This year was hard because I kept taking breaks-first at the beginning of the year, then after Euros, then I had surgery and couldn't do anything for a month. I won't be able to take those kinds of breaks again before Rio.

It is difficult to have a personal coach who is really a choreographer. I have to make a lot of decisions on my own. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I'm not going to go scouring the earth for such a person, but if they happen to appear it would be nice.   

(They [interviewer] imply that she won't stop training until she's bleeding) : Certainly I train bars long after everyone tells me to stop. I keep going until I get it right. It's emotional vampirism.  

I have changed. It was time. I've begun to act more truly as myself instead of as I am "supposed" to. I communicate differently and more, I'm happy more often. Recently I realized that while you have to surrender yourself to this sport, you can't look at it as work. It can't be coerced; you have to want to do it, like a hobby. We have young ones who train with us who have to be forced. Some cry; some can handle it, some can't. The Americans are always smiling; they love it. Children shouldn't have to cry. Everything starts there.

Nobody told this to me, I just came to the realization over time. When things don't go my way in training, I tell myself it's okay, that there's always tomorrow. Or I have to sit around until I have a plan. Then I get up and train until I get it done, even when I rip all my calluses off.

[The situation with the younger girls] is a problem, of course. When Vika Komova, Tanya Nabieva and I were young, we could already do everything we do now. If I hadn't been in that kind of shape when I was younger I would never have achieved anything. I'm still not discouraged. I hope the younger girls can strengthen their programmes. It will be difficult to compete with the Americans, of course; they're strong, and that's putting it lightly. And it seems that it doesn't matter that we work to hit splits and point our toes; even though they're often not quite in splits or have not-quite-pointed toes, nobody cares.

*that last bit was a significant paraphrase and maybe a little harsher than she meant it. She's just saying that a vague "they" (probably the judges) don't seem to put as much emphasis on those kinds of deductions as they have said they would in the past

We'll still keep trying to make our exercises beautiful. If we could do as much difficulty as the Americans and even add a little beauty it would be a big plus. For the fans if not the judges. The judges are a separate issue. Sometimes it seems like they have already decided the outcome before the competition has even started. That's the worst thing, and sometimes it makes me want not to try. I understand that no matter what I do, they will place Biles ahead of me. The thought [not to try] occurs to me, but it goes away quickly. We [all] had two open training sessions every day, and the Americans were always doing something - running, circuit training, extra things. Some of it is probably genetics. Just look at them - they're healthy, brimming with life. We don't have gymnasts like them in Russia. Look at Polina Fyodorova, Masha Kharenkova, Dasha Spiridonova. They will always be small and skinny. They'll never have the kind of muscle the Americans have. Look at the Chinese....

Interviewer: By the way, have you lost weight?
Aliya: I don't see it, but I guess it looks like it.

I'm really comfortable with this team (she specifically mentions Masha, Elf and Alla). They're really nice to be around, they're not jealous and they don't say mean things. I want to help them. I help, they listen, and it's really pleasant for me.

*Translation note: When she says "I want to help them," she uses a reflexive construction which normally means she feels as though the desire comes from outside herself or is innate, as opposed to something she actively wants.

I'm on my third book this Worlds, an Italian novel. I listen to music while I drive to Round Lake. I'm an "omnivore" - I like a lot of things. Except I'm a picky eater. I hate onions. If a dish has onions, it's no longer even food to me. I have to take a napkin to meals here in China. Maybe that's why I've lost weight?

My leg is fine, but I do have other body parts. My back has been bothering for two and a half years. It was really bad at this Worlds. I don't like to talk about it and I feel I shouldn't, but during the team final I felt like I wouldn't be able to do anything at all. Sometimes I can't even run. I'm not protecting my leg. I don't do something if I'm not confident on it. So if I'm standing on the vault runway and I feel I won't be able to do the double, I don't do it. It's a kind of intuition. Sometimes I won't do something even when I think I can, because I can no longer think, "Oh well, if I underrotate a little, no big deal!" My ankle or knee start bothering me if I underrotate. My knee doesn't bother me anymore except when I land poorly. So I only perform an element when I'm certain I won't get hurt doing it.

I'm now thinking only of what to do in the off season and how to stay patient until Rio. No, not stay patient, but put all of my strength, everything that I have, into training for it.

The night before AA finals, my temperature started to rise, my throat started to hurt, I was congested and coughing, all at once. I tried not to think about it. I couldn't lift my arms or legs at training. We went to the doctor and asked for everything they had. Anti-fever [medicine], a load of pills, I sprayed something and gargled something. And when I got to the competition I was still shaking. It wasn't so bad the next day during bars finals. The worst part was the watery eyes - I wanted to rub them but they were made up! And when I was warming up on bars, sometimes I couldn't even see them. My eyes couldn't keep up with my body somehow.



  1. Enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

  2. As its ceremoniously being pointed out by the gymternet, the way she feels about Biles always winning no matter what is the way many gymnasts, big 4 and otherwise, probably feel victimized by her own healthy stack of bronze medals lol.

    Biles works hard but the result looks easy and she deserves every medal, especially all six of her golds, that she got. Can't wait for Key and an upgraded Kla Ross (!!!!! did you see that interview!?!she's upgrading, lord have mercy on my senses!) to challenge Biles, since its clear Iordache is the only intl challenger with the right mentality and training regimen to possibly be a threat.

    1. It's a valid point. Biles benefits from her reputation, but so does Mustafina. How many gymnasts would have beaten Teramoto for bronze with no acro series?

    2. I thought the exact same thing kareharpies! Too funny that she said about Biles what so many said about her on floor and beam during event finals. I suppose you didn't recognize the gifts you get yourself. And frankly - Biles deserves her medals and not many would disagree with that statement. It makes me a little cranky at her.

      Also - so pleased with Kyla's interview about upgrades.

    3. First of all, WHERE IS THIS INTERVIEW OF KYLA ROSS, GIMME GIMME GIMME. Anyways, I think this interview is enlightening as Musty is carrying Russia. At the moment, Russia did not create her, she created Russia, it feels like. Sometimes, I think about in the car or bus, what I would do if I was her coach. I would have no comps for her except for American Cup, Euros, Russian nationals, Russian Cup, and worlds. I know with the 2011 story, but I think the American Cup at the beginning of the year will be a wake up call for the Russians. This schedule is very similar to the Americans (hint hint). This will give enough time for Musty to recover and rest.
      I also think that in order for the Russians to succeed the have to have stricter trainings. I mean going on vacation to Italy, what other country does that. I mean I guess Romania went to Sweden but at least there was training purposes involved. I wonder what it would be like if Alexandrov would still be in charge. Would Musty be the same? better? worse?
      On the other hand this interview shows that Musty has matured, the diva is gone, and that she is being careful of her body.

    4. i must say that I really love getting to read these interviews with Aliya. I think that Alexandrov being gone is good for her because she has changed in many good ways.. but I have to think that Biles while she is good is rather overrated while she brings an amazing amount of strength to the gym she doesn't have that way of making people love her like Aliya does. and honestly I think that's what give Aliya her edge. she brings a lot of respect ad strength to the gym but she always has that look in her eye that makes you wonder what's going on inside her head

  3. Interesting, interesting. This interview gives me mixed feelings: sympathy, admiration, skepticism, exasperation, disapproval and confusion.

    We all know that Musty was far from a picture of health this Worlds, and in fact has been dealing with numerous health problems since the Olympics. She was sick right before last year's Worlds as well. We all knew she had foot/ankle problems this year and had to get surgery. Now with this interview you realize how much you don't hear about in real time. I knew Aliya has had a struggle but this really drives home the fact that she is in pain daily, and that she is no longer the impetuous superstar youngster from 2010. She's a veteran now, who has to work at it twice as hard. She's become wiser for sure, and her tenacity is a thing to behold. She knows her own body and what it's capable and not capable of, but her approach may be wrong.

    It's really telling how she speaks of her young teammates. She protective and perhaps a little too indulgent, which I think is part of the problem in Round Lake as a whole, but seems to have some awareness that this current generation of girls is not up to par.

    It is off-putting and frustrating to hear Aliya talk about the scoring as if the competition was fixed. I expected that sort of nonsense from her coaches, not her. I'm not one to say biased scoring is absent in the sport because I know that it is not. But it certainly is strange that it is this Championships she is choosing to talk about it. The Americans won because they were clearly better than everyone else. Splits are reached more often than not (unless your name is Skinner, who is penalized for it). Biles has placed ahead of Musty this entire competition and was the golden girl because she is clearly stronger than everyone else including Aliya, whose gymnastics was far from gold medal-worthy. News flash Musty: even if this was a case of Biles being gifted, you receive your fair share of undeserved gifts as well. Just look at the bronze you wrongly got over Teramoto.

    Anyway, maybe I am being too harsh and the translation only makes it sound like she is being ridiculously conspiratorial. She did, after all, compliment the energetic demeanor and health of the Americans.

    If I gleaned anything from this interview it is that Aliya is very much alone and is indeed carrying the weight of the world on her back. But, Idk, this interview also comes off as a bit of an excuse at times, though that is only when it is put into the context of the rhetoric being used by the Russian camp as a whole; I don't think Aliya herself meant it as such.

    It worries me that she believes the way to continue is to take no breaks, assuming she means both training and competition. Honestly, Aliya needs to decline all unimportant meets - World Cups, Universiade, even Euros - take a measured break, then come back slowly and pace herself in the gym, while focusing on improving at a manageable rate in a manageable way, as well as maintaining her health. If Team Russia loses medals because she's not around to lead them, then good: they'll be wiser and tougher. Aliya can't be there to hold their hands forever. Aliya has been encouraged to compete non-stop by the Rodionenkos, who are basically exploiting her competitiveness and sense of responsibility. Alexandrov was smart and caring enough to put the breaks on when needed, but he is gone now.

    Overall a very interesting and rather bleak look at Aliya's situation.

    1. I love your writing. Where is your blog please?

      I would agree, but perhaps not as strongly. Not that you were harsh or anything! I think it's only natural to feel a little demoralised facing a gymnast like Biles. But I think it discredits her to act like it is somehow predetermined, as if it doesn't matter what Biles herself does or as if she isn't getting her results from sheer talent and hard work. Not that Mustafina directly says that, but she is casting aspersions on judging. Which is fair enough, but any reputation bonus Biles gets is equalled by what Mustafina herself gets. Judges don't need to look for areas to favour Biles, she is so far ahead of everyone else anyway.

      It's disheartening to read about her health and also yes, her attitude towards future breaks. Russia as a whole need to take more lessons from the US as regards pacing and conditioning. It would make a lot of difference.

    2. I love both of your writing abilities and heartily agree! And amen on the conditioning comment.

    3. Lol, I would never be able to run a blog. Thanks though.

      It is certainly true that those with strong reputations from the Big 4 do receive the benefit of the doubt more often than not. It is also true that they are usually the ones with biggest skills and best techniques in comparison to other nations that don't have the strong programs, great coaching, funding, depth, or legacy in gymnastics that Romania, the US, China and Russia.

      However, Aliya - and by extension, her federation - see this only in terms of America and their gymnasts, while refusing or being blind in recognizing some of their own good luck. And you're right, it discredits her. Maybe it would hold more merit if there were some sort of scandals in scoring/medals this year concerning the Americans but there wasn't. Right now I am thinking back to Antwerp and Andrei Rodionenko's statements to the press. Not that Aliya is anywhere close to Rodionenko's level, who was not only vile and stupid but racist to boot - however, it does reveal a certain influential and ultimately pernicious mentality that I don't like to see from anyone, let alone Russia since their situation already has so many issues. From what I've seen this is part of their way of avoiding blame: Our gymnasts are performing fine, it's just the judges who aren't doing their job! Our program is fine, it's the direction of sport itself that is the problem! Our approach is fine, it's the Americans who are all wrong! Or so their thinking goes....

      Despite all that I still believe Aliya to be a gracious and mature competitor who behaves accordingly to the other gymnasts, far from the bitchy diva that certain outlets *coughNBCcough* try to make her out to be. Actually, as Lauren has pointed out, there has been great examples of sportsmanship at the WC this year.

      Also, yes, more conditioning. How this still hasn't been addressed by them, I'll never know

  4. What I will blame Aliya for is ruining my worlds post buzz for tonight, I don't have time to finish discussing Sunday's controversial finals now as it's late! Until tomorrow!

  5. This is on the 'I understand that no matter what I do, they will place Biles ahead of me.' phrase of the interview that's been discussed so much by the gymternet. English isn't my first language and so I feel the need to point out the fact, that if you say you 'understand' sth in my first language, it always means you get the point why this sth happens/happened/will happen. It's the only meaning of 'understanding sth' (how it's used in the context here) that we know. I have no idea how many meanings this expression can have in English though. So from my point of view it could also be a compliment to Biles. But then again there's the context of the outcome of a competition being predetermined, so who knows. Plus I'm basing my comment on on the translation not on the original, which obviously isn't too significant. This comment isn't meant to defend aliya and be like 'Ohh but she's so great', I simply wanted to point out that while sth can mean this in one language, it can mean that in another and sth completely different in a third language. Getting the correct sense of sth translated is never easy and I wish I spoke at least ten different languages, which would be incredibly helpful in such situations:D

    1. You certainly make a good point when we're reading translations. I just wanted to acknowledge that this translation was done by The Gymternet's (the site not the fandom) own russian to english translator and unlike some translators used on other blogs, she actually understands the sport, so i think she chose the best word that fit within the context of what she knew Musty was talking about.

    2. Yes, Lauren does fantastic translations, I'm fairly sure she translates for Rewriting Russian Gymnastics also. It must be hard to find the right word without in any way changing the meaning/tone.

      At that part, I don't think she's being critical of Biles. Sort of complimentary? Explaining how motivation can be hard sometimes? Hard to pinpoint it exactly.

  6. Link to the original, please?


      Also, here it is translated more directly:

  7. This interview with her is enlightening, but i disagree with her in many aspects in some of her points.
    1. she and the rest of the world are feeling the same way everyone felt when the Soviets dominated, or when Romania dominated. is not that the judges are picking favorites is just the reality the US is way ahead in terms of difficulty, execution, and power.
    2. they did not win in 2011 Worlds, or 2012 Olympics, or the 2014 World for what they always do, which is crumble under pressure. they just keep on falling, or missing connections or, having mental blocks. they don't execute.
    3. is not genetics only for the Americans. because all gymnast are extremely special for what they do. she needs to stop drinking out of Rodionenko cool aid because that its not it. Weiber, Maroney, Douglas, Ross, Biles, Gowey are examples of all different types of body types. is call training both in physical strength and gymnastics skills. and she stated it herself in how they train.
    Romania is also a team that have healthy strong girls, they may not have the numbers ( which they will have next year) but their girls are strong.
    4. she seems to not realize that those pointed toes and splits actually allowed her to beat gymnast that actually had higher difficulty, competed all the components of the exercise, and actually did not pause after every other skill and connected elements.
    5. And finally stop taking one American gymnast and making it seem that they all are the same in terms of pointing their feet and achieving full splits. I don't do it to the Russians. Lord knows Kharentetova does not achieve full splits. Paseka and Naieba form are atrocious in mostly everything, and lest not even cover the state of their current floor routines, beautiful is not the words for it.
    and last make me just say that she is one of my absolute favorites gymnast, and i lover her.

    1. It's hard to read her tone at some points. I do think she oversimplifies American success, and gymnasts too. Open acceptance of body types, conditioning and the NT system are the main key to American success, along with having so many, many more girls in the system itself. The US has girls with slight body frames who are well able to keep up and have great endurance, so it's not true to say that Russian gymnasts couldn't be like they are. Reports from Round Lake a good while ago mentioned that conditioning is lacklustre.

      I think it would be right to add in at some point when discussing America in her interview that they they did earn their success, it comes across as if judges favoured them for other specific reasons, or conforming to the code, or ditching toepoint. They win because they compete like winners.

      In almost all of the interview, she is refreshingly well spoken, reasoned, informative. When she mentions Biles and how it can be hard to get motivation etc. etc...I think she's just speaking about demoralisation there, rather than criticism of Biles. I don't think she's displaying the best grasp though of why the US are winning.

    2. Send Bela over there. He'd whip those divas into shape.

    3. Aghhh. This is too relevant as I'm currently reading Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. Long out of print, and took a month for an ex-library NYC copy to arrive :p Long out of date too, but so interesting.

  8. I have to agree with you that she is probably feeling demoralized when going up against a gymnast like Biles with the complete package of difficulty and execution—perhaps not the Russian idea of "classical, pointed-toes" execution Mustafina has grown adhering to. She does seem to inaccurately generalize the American success, but she doesn't necessarily say that genetics is the sole reason to it, rather as part of the reason.

    Proper conditioning is definitely a HUGE reason to USA's success and Russia's lack of relative success. But perhaps she was thinking primarily of Biles when she mentions "genetics" because Biles does have the ideal body type to compete such difficult skills with ease and great execution, whereas she names Kharenkova and Spiridonova as examples of smaller girls without the muscle mass to effectively upgrade from an FTY vault. It's a valid point but definitely an oversimplification of the difference between the American and Russian teams. Maybe Komova's frequent absence has led her to forget that she's a waif-like gymnast who competes some of the most difficult routines in the world.

    I really love how she's aware and very informative about her own sport, but it really seems like she's struggling to reconcile the Russian tradition with the current progression. They've done it so well last quad, and it is a bit disheartening to see that they haven't been quite up to standard at the midpoint of this quad. And it looks like she understands the necessity to upgrade to keep herself and the Russian team in medal contention towards Rio. I can think of Ross being in a similar predicament, and they're both lucky to remain competitive at this level with their downgraded routines.

    But anyway, upgrading is easier said than done, and it looks like she's determined enough to stay with it till Rio. I just hope the Russian coaching staff would realize the necessity of better conditioning after this year's results. Then perhaps they'll start looking like the talent-heavy team of last quad.

  9. Ugh I love you Musta but the complacency about placements is just too much, I'm sure that the judges would love to give the gold medal to some other team besides the US but the rest of the world keeps making it so hard for them by NOT HITTING like come on start complaining about not sporting well when you've actually hit. Does she realize that she herself is over scored on many an occasion, she's saying as if pretty pointed toes and lovely splits should automatically give you gold when the overall exercise is performed so poorly. Gymnastics is changing, it's enviable nothing is static and execution means something different than it did before, if you want to remain stagnant and think you can get ahead you only have yourself to blame. (ahem Russian program)
    Having said that I also noticed how much happier she looks this championship lots more smiles, lovely to see that.

  10. Cat, I hope you will soon be posting your opinions and musings on the beam and floor finals, as well as your impressions of the WC as a whole. Not to mention there are some..."interesting" reactions from certain factions of the gymternet to the results of said finals, and the competition in general, which are as morbidly fascinating as they are frustrating, so I'm wondering about your thoughts on that too. :)

    1. Yes! Ugh just when there's so much happening..I have so much happening! I was hoping for later on but I have a killer headache so unsure. Til tomorrow!

  11. Did anyone see Mykayla cry after floor finals she made me cry.