|A favorite for the all-around title in Rotterdam, rising star Aliya Mustafina can be high maintenance, Russian head coach Alexander Alexandrov said.
A favorite for the all-around title at the world championships in Rotterdam, rising star Aliya Mustafina can be a handful in the gym, Russian head coach Alexander Alexandrov said.
Mustafina, who turned 16 on Sept. 30, is stubborn and prone to tears when things don't go well in training, he said.
"The girl is very talented, but with a difficult character," Alexandrov told a Russian newspaper in Rotterdam. "However, you don't find much complacency among champions."
Mustafina is expected to contend for several medals at the world championships, which begin Saturday at the Ahoy Arena. The Muscovite has emerged as the leader of the revived Russian team, which in May regained its women's title at the 2010 European Championships in Birmingham.
Mustafina, who took second on both bars and beam in Birmingham, showed upgraded routines en route to winning her second Russian Cup title in August. With a solid 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko and one of the most difficult uneven bars sets in the world, Mustafina may just win Russia's first world all-around title since Svetlana Khorkina captured her third in 2003.
"Judging from past competitions, today Mustafina has the highest total difficulty value in the world," Alexandrov said.
Mustafina has sporting success in her family, ethnic Tatars. Her father, former wrestler Farkhad Mustafin, was a two-time world champion and a bronze medalist at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Her younger sister, Nailya, was a member of Russia's junior team, and took second on floor exercise at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships.
Alexandrov has worked with Mustafina since 2008, when he returned to Russia after more than 15 years in Texas. Ironically, Mustafina's former personal coach, Dina Kamalova, has since left Russia for Texas, where she is now coaching at WOGA. Her new star gymnast? U.S. champion Rebecca Bross, one of Mustafina's main rivals in Rotterdam and second at the 2009 Worlds.
The Russian women are expecting the U.S. to be their biggest challenge in the team final, he said.
"Their depth is enormous," said Alexandrov, who coached the legendary Dmitry Bilozerchev to four gold medals at the 1987 Worlds in Rotterdam. "Next [our rival] is the Chinese team. We don't have as much information to go on for them, but tradition is tradition. The Romanians never back off from a challenge. The Europeans did not go too well for them, but I can tell you their team is a good one."
Great Britain and Japan are also contenders, he said.
"Now you can can expect surprises from any country in the team and all-around competition, not to mention event finals," Alexandrov said.
Three members of the Russian team are first-year seniors, including Mustafina and Tatiana Nabiyeva, another all-around contender.
"We expect Mustafina and Nabiyeva to contend for medals in the all-around and we're very happy, because in recent years we had problems with all-arounders," he said.
The Chinese, Romanian and Russian women compete Saturday, the first of two days of qualification. The U.S. competes is in the first subdivision on Sunday.
Stay tuned to IG Online for more news and reports from the 2010 World Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam. Live coverage begins Saturday!