Aliya Mustafina: Medals can’t weigh me down!

What did I learn from the World Championships? That we can win, too! We can beat the Chinese and we can beat the Americans – there’s nothing that difficult in it. We have to work and everything will be fine. And as for whether or not I am the leader – I really never think about that. I’ve just got a big boost after Worlds. Two golds, three silvers…I don’t want to stop. Can medals weigh me down? I don’t think so. After Rotterdam, we had a whole week off. That is really a lot for us and it was hard to get back in shape. And everyone around is so surprised: “Just a week off after such a hard season? That’s so little!”.

I noticed a long time ago that I feel more at home at Round Lake than I do in Moscow. We don’t have enough time to live with our families. After Worlds I didn’t even have that much time to be a home that free week, I had too many things to do. I went to the gym of course, but not for long at any time. The first thing I did was go to school. That is always a treat for me. I met my friends and we went to the movies after class and hung out…I spent the whole year at the training camp and I have one set of friends there and another here. Those who aren’t gymnasts. Mostly they are girls in synchronised swimming – my classmates. We’re not in a sports school, but our school is near the Olimpiyskiy sports centre and a lot of swimmers and “synchronists” study there.

We study at Round Lake, too, when we are at training camp. My favourite subjects are physics and maths. They are easier than the others because I find them interesting. And I can understand them well. How can physics not be interesting?! It’s cool to learn how all those laws in nature work! My mother is a physics teacher. Before I moved up to seventh grade (the first year we have physics) I got a textbook from her. I read it and it really caught my attention…I started wondering “why do plus and minus attract each other, but two plusses push each other apart?” And since then, physics has been my favourite subject. The girls in the team tell me that I’m always the first to calculate what score I need to get. I’m not the only one, by the way. Katya Kurbatova is also good with maths.

People ask me a lot now if anything has changed in me after the feeling of being champion. I don’t think so. Really nothing has changed. I know that Svetlana was world champion before me and that that was seven years ago and it’s nice they compare me to her. But Khorkina is Khorkina and I am Mustafina. I want to bring something of my own to gymnastics.

It was nice when my classmates and teacher congratulated me. Can you imagine – I came to school and they had flowers for me and we had cake and tea right in class. That was cool…Well and now I have more confidence in my strengths. I’m really happy I didn’t let the team down. It was really scary before the last event. If I’d got five hundredths less that would have been all.

My father took me took gymnastics. He is a wrestling coach at the Central Army Sports Club. Why did he take me to the gym, instead of the rink or pool which were right there? Papa was an athlete and my sister Nelya and I did gymnastics, but there were never any big conversations about sport at home. Sometimes papa said, “Go for it, Alya. If you train hard, you’ll be world champion”. But whether or not he really thought that or was just saying it, I don’t know. Papa and my mum don’t spend hours sitting in the gym like some parents do. But I loved gymnastics right away. I liked the Swedish wall bars, the trampoline and then bars… When you’re little, you like everything and it’s all fun.

I knew I couldn’t live without gymnastics when I became a teenager; everyone talks about it now. I was growing, my arms and legs stopped listening to me and it was scary. I even thought about stopping. But I kept going to the gym and those thoughts went away. But something inside was right calm for quite a while. Because on the one hand, I did not want to train, but on the other hand I was afraid because I didn’t have anything in life but sports and I wondered – what would happen if I lost that? And for some reasons I was also confident in gymnastics – I knew I could do it.

I don’t know whether or not a champion has to have a certain personality. I can’t speak about myself. Am I a calm person? Well, it depends on the situation. Compared to my sister, I am. For example, when she and I argue, I can stay calm but she can’t at all. Do I like company? Probably more yes than no. I like to be with people when I’m in the mood for it and I like to be the centre of attention. But I live in my own room at Round Lake. You see the same faces all year round and personally I sometimes have to get away from that.

Some say I am like steel on the podium? Well, pulling myself together on the last event and compete like I did in Rotterdam? That I can do.

From the official magazine of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation GIMNASTIKA 2010 issue 4, page 18.

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