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'We Hope The Invited American Girls Will Help Us,' Says Koshel
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Belarusian Gymnastics Association vice president Antonina Koshel this week commented exclusively and in-depth to International Gymnast Online regarding the background, intent and ramifications of the nomination of U.S.-trained gymnasts Kylie Dickson and Alaina Kwan to represent Belarus at the world championships in Glasgow later this month.


Antonina Koshel (Belarus)

As reported in late September by IG Online, Dickson and Kwan recently received dual-citizenship status so they can represent Belarus in international competition, starting with the worlds in Glasgow. The news elicited some negative feedback from our readers, although more than a dozen gymnasts on the nominative list for Glasgow have represented or hail from countries other than those they will represent in Glasgow, including two of the Belarusian men, Andrei Likhovitsky and Dmitry Barkalov, who were national team members from Russia.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Executive Committee's approval of Dickson's and Kwan's nationality change places them among more than 20 gymnasts in all disciplines whom the FIG has approved for nationality change thus far in 2015. The FIG also approved more than 20 gymnasts for nationality change in 2014.

Andrey Federov, a spokesperson for the BGA, confirmed that Dickson's and Kwan's nomination for Glasgow was accomplished per Article 36.2.2 of the FIG's statutes (see link below); and that Belarusian national team head coach Yelena Kuznetsova will also accompany Dickson and Kwan in Glasgow, along with Galina Marinova, their All Olympic Gymnastics Center coach.

Koshel reiterated that the decision to invite Dickson and Kwan to compete for Belarus was encouraged by BGA vice president Nellie Kim, who has a long-standing relationship with the Americans, but also supported and approved by every level of Belarusian sport.

In the following commentary, Koshel, a team gold medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games, provides IG Online with details on the process.


The Republic of Belarus has for many years had famous, high-level gymnasts, and a host of champions of the Olympic Games, world championships and European championships. But since the late ‘90s, the results of the Belarusian gymnasts began to gradually fall. One of the main reasons for the decline of the results was the departure, for various reasons, of highly qualified and young coaches who went abroad for work. Since the beginning of the ‘90s more than 100 coaches left Belarus, most of whom are now working in the United States.

At the end of 2014, the management of the Belarusian Gymnastics Association was replaced, and Elena Skripel is the new head. She was given the task, by the leadership of the sports industry in the country, to revive the former glory of gymnastics, especially women’s gymnastics.

In July 2015, at a meeting on gymnastics which was attended by leaders of the Belarusian Gymnastics Association, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus, some decisions were made on the further development of gymnastics in Belarus, as well as possible support for the sport by the government. But any financial support provided by the government implies a return in the form of athletic performance.


Half the 1972 Soviet Olympic team hailed from Belarus. Left to right: Lyubov Burda (Russia), Elvira Saadi (Uzbekistan), Lyudmila Turischeva (Russia), Olga Korbut, Antonina Koshel and the late Tamara Lazakovich (Belarus)

Due to a complete lack of Belarusian gymnasts who are at the world level, it was decided to invite foreign gymnasts for possible performances for the team of Belarus, including the transfer of their skills to young gymnasts of the country, which should positively affect the growth of the sport.

We know that women's gymnastics is very well-developed in the United States, and this is not in small part due to the work of coaches from the former Soviet Union, including Belarus. With Nellie Kim, vice-president of the Belarusian Gymnastics Association who lives and has good contacts in the United States, the American gymnasts were invited to compete for our country.

Due to the fact that competition on the national team of the United States is very large, the girls enthusiastically accepted our offer, as any athlete regardless of their country of residence has a dream to perform at major international competitions. For them will be a great honor to compete at the World Championships, even for the team of Belarus. And, in any case, they cannot be blamed for such a choice.

The final decision on the invitation of Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson was made at the September 4 meeting of the technical committee of the BGA, and was fully supported by the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and National Olympic Committee of Belarus.

At the end of the last Belarusian gymnastics championships, held September 15-18, due to a very weak readiness of Belarusian gymnasts - the difficulty level of routines (D-score) and execution (E-score) were significantly inferior to the invited American gymnasts - it was decided to declare Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson for participation in the World Championships in Glasgow.

Belarus submitted nominative notice to the FIG earlier - the deadline was September 23 - when the American gymnasts were just getting the FIG’s permission to represent Belarus in international competitions. At that time Belarus nominated two gymnasts: Aliaksandra Koshaleva and Sviatlana Lifenka. But to be perfectly honest, unfortunately, their level of performance in various competitions throughout 2015 and the last national championship was too low - Aliaksandra Koshaleva (all-around - 49.15) and Sviatlana Lifenka (all-around - 46.35) - so that they could represent our country at the World Championships at a decent level.

We should not forget that the World Championships in Glasgow is one of the qualifying competitions for the 2016 Olympic Games. And of course we very much hope that the representative of Belarus will win the right to represent our country at the Olympics in 2016.

Who that is remains to be seen. We are raising good young gymnasts who, already in the near future, will be able to represent our country in the international arena. We hope that the invited American girls will help us in this, as do the Belarusian coaches working in the United States. After all, no one condemns them that they work for the benefit of American gymnastics. So why should anyone condemn these American girls, who have decided to help Belarusian gymnastics?


IG Online resources on the subject include:

For the related FIG rules (Article 36 of FIG Statutes – Edition 2015), click here.

Azerbaijan: Oleg Stepko (formerly Ukraine); Kristina Pravdina, Anna Pavlova, Yulia Inshina and Marina Nekrasova (formerly Russia)
Belarus:Kylie Dickson and Alaina Kwan (from USA)
Czech Republic: David Jessen (formerly U.S.)
Finland: Oskar Kirmes (formerly Sweden)
Russia: Nikolai Kuksenkov (formerly Russia)
South Africa: Cameron MacKenzie (formerly Great Britain)
United States: Eddie Penev (formerly Bulgaria)

Gymnasts nominated for the Glasgow worlds who have previously represented or hail from other countries:

Armenia: Houry Gebeshian (USA)
Australia: Naoya Tsukahara (Japan)
Azerbaijan: Petro Pakhnyuk (Ukraine), Oleg Stepko (Ukraine), Yulia Inshina (Russia), Anna Pavlova (Russia), Marina Nekrasova (Russia)
Belarus: Dmitry Barkalov (Russia), Andrei Likhovitsky (Russia)
Bulgaria: Yordan Aleksandrov (USA)
Czech Republic: David Jessen (USA)
Georgia: Julia Rumbutis (Sweden)
Hungary: Ryan Sheppard (USA)
Iceland: Irina Sazonova (Russia)
Jamaica: Reiss Beckford (Great Britain), Danusia Francis (Great Britain)
Russia: Nikolai Kuksenkov (Ukraine)
Uzbekistan: Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan native, later represented Germany)