It seems that Ukrainian coach Oleg Ostapenko, fresh from a seven-year stint coaching the Brazilian girls, is not to work with the Ukrainian girls after all. Gazeta reports that Ostapenko, the former coach of Tatiana Lysenko, Natalia Kalinina and Viktoria Karpenko, has been appointed senior coach of the Russian junior team. No details on the appointment have been released yet, neither in Russia nor in Ukraine. We can only assume that the Russian Gymnastics Federation offered Ostapenko more money than its Ukrainian counterpart (according to the article posted below, the President of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation is also Chairman of the Board of a major banking group - now that's an interesting situation to be working from!), and that Ostapenko foresaw greater success with the Russian team than with the vastly underfunded Ukrainian one. It's too bad for Ukraine (their program is in desperate need of some good, experienced coaches), but excellent news for the Russians.
We'll post more details on that story as we get them.
Oleg Ostapenko and Jade Barbosa at Curitiba (photo: Andre Penner/AP Photo)
Meanwhile, we do have a few more details on the coaching situation regarding the Russian seniors. A few days ago, Gazeta published this article, translated for us by Kristina:
A "Foreigner" Has Taken On the Women
At the recent conference of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation (FGSR), Alexander Alexandrov was assigned the post of senior coach for the Russian national women's artistic gymnastics team. The Federation's work during the past quad, which resulted in two bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics, was acknowledged as satisfactory.
On Tuesday the conference of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation came to a close in the Russian Olympic Committee's headquarters. During the conference, the President of the FGSR, who is also Chairman of the Board of the VTB Banking Group, Andrei Kostin, announced changes in the training staff of the women's team.
Alexander Alexandrov was appointed the new senior coach of the national team, replacing in this post his predecessors, Viktor Gavrichenkov and Alexander Kiryashov.
Alexandrov is a well-known specialist. He was the personal trainer of Dimitri Bilozerchev, the triple 1988 Olympic champion, octuple world champion (including twice in the all-around), ten-fold champion of Europe (including twice in the all-around) and nine-fold champion of the USSR (including twice in the all-around).
At the end of the 1980s, Alexandrov, the senior coach of the USSR women's team, left for the USA, where he then worked with Carly Patterson, the 2004 Olympic all-around champion.
Alexandrov has already returned to Russia and taken over responsibilities at the "Round Lake" center, located in the Moscow area.
Alexander Alexandrov in his Soviet days (photo: Eileen Langsley/International Gymnast)
For almost the entire last Olympic quad, Victor Gavrichenkov was the senior coach of the women's team. However, in April 2008 he was replaced by Alexander Kiryashov, who used to occupy the post of senior coach of the Russian junior women's team.
Before the beginning the 2008 Olympics, Kostin was counting on good medal prospects. "We need one more Olympic cycle before we can return to Soviet standards. However, already in Beijing, we ought to win several gold medals. I will repeat: not one, but several, straight away."
In reality it turned out otherwise. The women's team remained empty-handed, and the men could only earn two bronze medals, both on Anton Golotsutskov's account. Golotsutskov came in third on vault and floor.
But even this modest performance was sufficient to obtain positive feedback from RosSport: "I think we in fact needed one more year in order to show a significantly better result. If we consider the degree of preparation, looking from now toward London 2012, we are in a considerably better position than we were four years ago, looking toward Beijing 2008."
Will all the coaches retain their positions? "This depends on the Federation," Andrei Rodionenko, the head coach of the national team, emphasized, summing up the lessons of the Olympics.
As we can see, the Federation has made its choice, deciding to change coaches, in spite of the successful appearance of the Russian competitors in the World Cup Final in Madrid.
"If we look at this in levels, then the most prestigious competition in gymnastics is without doubt the Olympic Games. Then come the World Championships, but I would position the World Cup Final somewhere on the third level, on a level with the championships of the leading continents," noted Rodionenko.
The gymnast Yulia Lozhechko from Bryansk performed magnificently in the Spanish competition, taking second place on beam. Golotsutskov confirmed his high ranking, taking third place on vault, as in the Olympics.
Yulia Lozhechko in Madrid (photo: Volker Minkus/FIG)
The results of the past four-year cycle were summed up during the conference. In his report, FGSR President Kostin described the results of the national team at the Olympic Games (two bronze medals) as satisfactory, but admitted that he would have preferred more medals and that in the next Olympic cycle nobody is going to make any more allowances for the gymnasts due to a lack of time for preparations.
Stormy debates were caused by the speech given by Denis Pankratov, the Department Director on State Policy and the Development of Top-Level Sport in Russia's Ministry of Sport. Pankratov, a two-time Olympic swimming champion, stated that "no one is going to throw money away."
"Everybody has the same problems and everybody has identical salaries. But are the wrestlers bringing in medals? Are the track-and-field athletes bringing in medals? It means that someone must find a way to resolve these problems. The Ministry is working on this, but don't feel that it's not your responsibility as well," the agency AllSport quoted Pankratov as saying.
In conclusion, the conference delegates unanimously recognized the Federation's work over the last four years as satisfactory.
So there you have it. Alexandrov is indeed replacing Kiryashov as the man responsible for the national senior team. No word on whether Gavrichenkov and Kiryashov will remain involved with the national team in any capacity. Rodionenko, we assume, will be the team supervisor, rather than a coach actually working with the girls. Meanwhile, Ostapenko will take over the junior squad.
If we were Chinese, American and Romanian gymnastics officials, we'd start to feel just a little bit nervous at this news. And if we were Ukrainian gymnastics officials, we'd feel more than a little betrayed.