Olympic Hopeful Aliya MustafinaAliya Mustafina is currently one of my favourite gymnasts. She combines incredible difficulty with style, grace and elegance and she is delightful to watch. With no real weak piece of apparatus, she will be hoping to contend for not just one but many medals at the London 2012 Olympics.
After a very successful junior career Aliya Mustafina turned senior in 2010 and continued with her winning ways. In her first major international competition, the 2010 European Championships, she not only helped the team to the Gold medal but qualified to three of the four apparatus finals, taking the Silver medal on bars and beam. Later that year she was the top qualifier all around at the 2010 World Championships, a score she subsequently improved on to become the 2010 World Champion. Not only that, she qualified for all four event finals becoming the first woman to do so since Svetlana Khorkina in 1997. She came away from the championships with an amazing five medals: two Gold (team, all around) and three Silver (vault, bars, floor).
In 2011 Aliya attended the 2011 European Championships where she was expected to dominate. Indeed in qualification she posted the highest all around score (almost 3 whole marks above her second place teammate Anna Dementyeva) and qualified to all four event finals. However this was not to be Aliya's year. On her first piece of apparatus in the all around final she injured her knee landing the Amanar vault. It was later revealed that she had torn her ACL in her left knee meaning not only was she not able to compete in the rest of the European Championships but she would also miss the 2011 World Championships. Ironically, the score she posted for her vault (15.375) was the joint highest score of the whole all around final.
By early 2012 Aliya proved that she was winning the battle against her injury by beginning to compete internationally again and she was part of the team that took Silver at the 2012 European Championships. She performed poorly in qualification and did not make any of the event finals, however she posted the highest score for her team on two of the three apparatus she competed on, scoring an impressive 15.166 on vault and a massive 15.833 on bars.
I really hope that Aliya will be back on top form by the Olympic Games. She is an amazing gymnast and such a joy to watch on all four pieces of apparatus. She is one of those special gymnasts who has an amazing artistic quality that sets her apart from so many others. Although I love watching her on all four apparatus, her floor exercise is simply beautiful and I particularly loved her floor routine at the 2010 World Championships. It really was a fantastic performance combining all of the qualities needed for an excellent floor routine. I simply cannot wait to see her performances at the Olympic Games. Good luck Aliya.