Youngsters to vindicate Russia’s gymnastics honor in London
Russian artistic gymnasts have always had a lot to live up to in the distinguished tradition of Soviet Union athletes. Between Russia and the USSR 49 gold medals have been won at the Olympic Games far outshining any other nation.
But now times have changed. Russia may still be one of the top countries when it comes to women's competition but their male counterparts have had it much harder especially with the rise of Team China.
The hosts of the last Olympics kept seven of the eight golds on offer at home. And so, not surprisingly, caution is the buzz word ahead of the London Games.
“In the women's competition there are really only around five countries who can win. While in men's gymnastics expect any of the top 16 countries to fight for the podium. Certainly, there are some teams, which have better chances, but in general the competition there is much tougher,” says the team’s head coach Andrey Rodionenko.
Russia will have five athletes taking part this summer. Emin Garibov, David Belyavsky, Denis Alyabzin and Aleksandr Balandin were selected as the first choice candidates last month. While determining the team's last member has appeared to be a very difficult task for the coaches. Igor Pakhomenko eventually got the nod for the final line-up.
It was heartbreak for the rest of those in the running, in particular Anton Golotsutskov. The two-time Beijing bronze medalist suffered a dip in form over recent years but had been training very hard in the run-up to the squad selection, but to no avail. So there is not a single former Olympian in the youthful quintet.
“Yes, we have a relatively young team. But I don't think, it's bad. We know each other very well, as we've been training together in the youth team for many years. And we even took part in the youth European Championships with the same line-up,” says Emin Garibov.
Four years ago Russia's male artistic gymnastic squad failed to add anything but bronze to the country's coffers. While you have to go way back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics to celebrate a gold medal success. The task then is a clear one – in order to revive the glorious traditions of previous generations, Team Russia are going to have to reach for the stars on the floor.