The Girl with Fearless Eyes

The girl with fearless eyes

Alia Mustafina becomes world champion, despite the circumstances

(Major Credit goes to Ears Aged Eleven at IntlGymnast for the Translation)

(Original Article Here)

In her eyes was reflected Damascus steel. She really is afraid of nothing. And for her there are, and can be, no limits or prohibitions. At least on the podium. She does not know anything else yet. And does not want to know … “The boys in my life will appear when they do” – flatly declared Alia Mustafina after the World Championship victories. – For now – only gymnastics.

During the Rotterdam World Championships she spoke with her father on Skype. Fargat Mustafin, a double world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, said to his eldest daughter:

– Alka, tear them up!

– Do not worry, Dad. I can not lose – calmly replied Alia.

She decided not to think about the gold medal for vault, which she was denied. What’s done is done:

“I understand – I need to become stronger so that it is impossible to mark me down.”

“People close to each other do not lie”

Six-year old Alia went to practice on the subway on her own by eight in the morning. From “Dobryninskaya” to “Belarus”, a change of line – and then to “Airport”, and the gym CSKA.
And she used to take four-year-old Nailya with her. She tells me about it as something self-evident:

– I have a good visual memory. If I am just shown the way, I will not get lost.

“Alia was an unusual child – notices her father .- I understood it when she cut her finger and held it up through the night. Slept and kept her finger like that! The extent to which she must be able to control her body, to control it even in dreams! “.

“And yet” – after a moment’s thought, Fargat adds- “She is secretive, and does not give out strengths or weaknesses. I think that in this lies her strength. In this sense, Alka is a vulnerable fellow. Most of all she is touched when unjustly offended. It does not matter who or what. She will pick it up. But never talks about it. There is a saying – the “frame” holds!

I once asked: “What is the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’?”. “People close to each other do not lie,” – said his daughter, almost without thinking. With her you can be strict, but must do everything on truth. To tell lies is to lose your authority. ”

“Ironically – continues Fargat – Alya is rarely at school, but she has many friends there. And just try to tell her that something is not right about them! She is also friends with her class teacher. Just after returning from Rotterdam, she immediately ran to the school. But there isn’t really time to study. I have serious concerns. I try anything to help her with the school curriculum. We recently discussed the “Gadfly.” “And what is interesting, dad? – She said to me. – He has not achieved what he wanted. I’ve forgotten about him. ” I was taken aback: “You read it in full?” – “Scanned through”. And it all became clear. ”

For her, the closest person is her sister. They have everything in common, although there is a also a spirit of rivalry! ”

Toward evening, when we sat up late with Fargat in a cafe near the gym CSKA, Nailya and Alya went to their father to go home together.

– Nailya, you probably also want to become a champion of the world? – I ask jokingly, as if to a child

Nailya’s tone is different. And she seriously wrinkled her freckled nose:

– I want to win the Olympics.

– The Youth Games?

– The real one!

It is the same character. “Mustafina-esque”.

Then I was told that Nailya was considered no less talented than Aliya. Several years ago she was doing a beam element that is very complicated, a twisting flip But then there was an accident: a fall from the bars, a fracture of the femur. The girl still has not departed from the fear; it has not yet been overcome.

– Fargat why are both your daughters gymnasts? You are a fighter, your wife teaches at the School of Physics.

– Yes, it’s all because of Galya Stepanenko, Galina Reynholdovna, the head teacher of gymnastic school CSKA. We, along with her husband competed for the USSR for many years, we’re family friends. “Alka can be a gymnast; a solid girl. – Bring her to me! “. I do not know, somehow she just saw the gymnast in Aliya. And I’ve only recently begun to understand gymnastics. I realized: if a wrestler wins the world championship in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and then in sambo and judo, that is like winning the world championship in the gymnastics all-around. Each of them is a separate world, a separate type of sport! I know about sports psychology and have long noticed when I went to her competitions: she has a special aura. Charisma! Alka came out not just to perform. She came out to win.

… Not winning vault at the world championships in Rotterdam is not the first drama for Alia.
Several years ago, she experienced a severe break with her coach, Deena Kamalova. She refused to work with Alia and soon left for the United States.

In protest, Mustafina was training in silence at the corner of the floor for an hour. There is some resentment in the tone of Alia’s father but Galina Stepanenko, head teacher of army gymnastics school, offers an explanation of what happened between Dina Rashidovna and Alia …

“Get ready for a heart attack! And it will be yours!”

I quickly caught in the stories of Fargat Mustafina a recurring theme. Galina Stepanenko, first saw the gymnast in Aliya and later had a part in her fate every time Aliya had difficulties. It was the army school head teacher who took her from her first children’s coach, who paid little attention to the little girl and was not ready to fully dedicate himself to one Mustafina and fifteen years of work on her results.

When Dina Kamalova left for the United States and Alia was ready to quit gymnastics, Galina Stepanenko, intervened again.

“Morally, my wife and I were prepared that Aliya might have been finished. It’s a very brutal sport! – Argues Mustafin. – Ten hours a day working on the equipment, and if something does not work, and the coach at the end of the tenth hour requires a repeat … What nerves you need! But Stepanenko stood firm: “Fargat, your daughter will become a champion!”

Then Galina Stepanenko asked Alexander Aleksandrov, an outstanding coach, not so long returned to Russia from the U.S., to pay attention to Alia Mustafina.

“And I still must admit that I did not understand Dina Kamalova- Adds Fargat. – She refused to continue with Aley’s training, and a week later went to America. I don’t need to discuss how it affected my daughter. But I think Dina felt like going, and that was the main motive. Well, you want to leave – so tell students to find another coach and be on your way. What does the child feel when you leave unexpectedly? That she was abandoned! To the child it’s an accident. ”

But relations with Alexandrov also did not develop smoothly.
“The Girl is talented, – said Alexander to Alina’s father. – But how stubborn “-” What do you want? – Laughed Fargat Mustafin. – Get ready for a heart attack. And it will be yours! ”
“In fact, she was drawn to him immediately – Fargat explained to me. – Children are drawn to authority figures. And, I’m sorry, but the coach of Bilozerchev is a “figure”!

… One gray November day, I climbed to the third floor of a building under repair, the army drill hall, and went into a small room. Galina Stepanenko greeted me cordially, pulled away from the computer, took off her glasses and poured coffee. But she flatly refused the epithet of “guardian angel”:

“On Aliya I can tell you anything you want. No I support her, of course, but am not a guardian angel. For that matter, I did not see anything special in the small Alia. I led her to gymnastics because that is what I loved. Fargat resisted for a long time: “You wait, Alya is already doing flips on the bed. I’ll have to bring her to you soon! “. But it did not happen.

And then came another: “Let Nelka grow up, bring both!”. And so it happened. Yes, I took care of Alia as the daughter of my friends. But when I realized that she was talented, I felt a double responsibility for the girl. There are many talented gymnasts. But what distinguishes the good from the great gymnast? A unique nervous system! It was so for Bilozerchev: after his accident he went on stage in Rotterdam with such amplitude and with a murderous coolness that made his rivals tremble. And Aliya reminds me of Bilozerchev. The ability to keep it together.

And during training she is not working at full strength. I remember Tamara Lazakovich, Olympic champion, alas, too early deceased. She did not like to exhaust herself in the hall. A week before a big tournament, she often suddenly “fell ill”. All work she takes “as a hobby”. Whether she was in fact, sick or well – you would not know. Incidentally, it was not banal laziness and self-preservation. Not everyone has it … on the day of reckoning, Lazakovich comes out and – oh!

She is the best!

When Alexander was observing Alia, I repeated: “Do not judge her on her training, she acts quite differently!”.

– Galina Reynholdovna what happened, in your opinion, between Ali and Dina Kamalova? Let’s put an end to this story.

– I would not want to, in connection with Aley, speak badly of Dina. Dina is a very good coach, technically. With Aley she worked fanatically, gave her a lot. It is no coincidence that Kamalova was immediately noticed and appreciated by Valeri Liukin and invited to the States.

But Dina did not have enough experience with teens, she found it difficult with them. That’s the problem! And it not only happened with Aley, but with other girls too. Dina demanded unquestioning obedience. Children can take it, but teenagers – no. And then came the hard times for Dina. The group began to disintegrate, one girl was lured into a circus, the other left with her parents. And at the same time, there were complexities in her personal life…

But that is done – all for the better. To get Alexander Sergeyevich Alexandrov for Alki – it was very good fortune!

“I love it when my nerves are frayed”

When I came to Alia and Alexandrov at “round lake”, Alexander was trying to politely leave us with Alia in the room alone. “It will probably be more convenient. And you can talk with me later”- the coach noted, politically correct. And taking his phone from the desk, decisively moved toward the door. But on the threshold he was forced to turn back …

Not yet accustomed to journalists Alya clearly needed his help. And Alexandrov realized that he could not leave her in this ‘stalemate’.

My tape recorder and camera flash photography have caused the world champion who is as yet unaccustomed to bearing the burden of fame – indeed, the girls are still quite small- to be very uncomfortable.

“But what do you mean small! – Alexander exclaimed with mock severity – We must learn to give interviews! Here, you and her: practise!” And he stood at the back of her chair, completely ready to “step in” if required.

– Alya, so that means you were assured of victory in Rotterdam? Your father told me about your conversation on Skype …

“I did not say that I’m better than anyone and will always win!” – Flashes Alya. – The conversation was such. But I expressed it a little differently. How exactly – I just do not remember, but …. ”
And having faltered, she is silent.

“Let me explain – Alexander Sergeevich comes to the rescue. – We are not talking about disrespect for fellow competitors! These are purely objective things … We get information and imagine who is capable of what. The information is a little fuzzy for the Chinese women – because there are too many. But in general, the picture is more or less clear. Alia had the highest level of program complexity. For all-around. For example, the vault: two and a half twists- none of the competitors could do this. And it gave a very big gap from the rest on just one event! Alia’s main rival was American Rebecca Bross. Compared with Bross, two events, vault and bars, gave Alia a solid advantage. She was supposed to have about 6 or 7 tenths on vault and 3-4 on the uneven bars. And now, that’s almost a point! A point – it means that you can even fall on such a treacherous event like beam and still be a champion! ”

– Alia, how did Alexander Sergeyevich manage to tame you?

– Maybe because he is like my dad … both externally and internally. Although I took a while to be accustomed to Alexander Sergeyevich. Two months. Each coach has his own technique. Not everyone is able to adapt. Moreover, I’m at that age. I don’t want to be forced. This means that I must do it myself. And I probably was not completely ready to be responsible for myself. Besides, Alexander Sergeyevich was raising the level of requirements higher. What went wrong at first? Well, yes, perhaps everything!

– Alexander, the threat of a heart attack that scared you as a joke, is that already behind us?

– I beg of you, what have I not seen? – Alexandrov laughed. – For that matter, I do not like complacency! Gymnasts performing at this level must have character. Softies can not win anything. (Internet said: A furry darling, as a rule, can not win anything.) They are good, I do not argue with that. But they just can not win! A man must have his own opinion, his “I”. Do you know how much Boginskaya frayed my nerves?

– Well, whose character is more difficult? Mustafina or Boginskaya?

– It didn’t come easy for both. Yes, I actually like it when my nerves are frayed. Argue, quarrel – and then at once find a working tone! And when they get up on a pedestal, you experience such happiness! This moment atones for everything.

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