On January 20, the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation posted an interview with head coach Andrey Rodionenko which contains some interesting tidbits. For one thing, it appears that this year's Russian Nationals will feature a team competition despite the fact that neither the 2009 Europeans nor the 2009 Worlds will have a team component, all with an eye to preparing the Russian gymnasts for the Olympic team qualifying process, which will commence next year. We guess this means the Russians are taking the 2012 team competitions very seriously indeed. For another thing, Rodionenko says that all the juniors who are considered good prospects for the 2012 Olympics are now training with the seniors. It seems the Russians are already carrying out the plans Nicolae Forminte recently suggested for the Romanian women's team...
Andrey Rodionenko: The Season of Renewal
The new gymnastics season has begun. Andrey Rodionenko, head coach of the Russian national team, tells us about what lies in store for Russian artistic gymnastics this year.
Q: Andrey Fedorovich, let us begin with what is bothering everybody both inside and outside sport – the economic crisis. Has it affected the gymnasts in any way?
A: The crisis has not touched us, but the only reason it has not touched us is because of our Federation. I'm sure you remember that at the recent conference, our President, Andrey Kostin, promised that gymnastics would not suffer. And he is keeping his word! A significant part of our funding is currently coming from the Federation. Even now we are carrying out a training camp with the Federation's money. Although state funding is provided, the money has not yet been transferred. But these are problems faced by all forms of sport, not just by artistic gymnastics. We believe that everything will be OK, thanks to the efforts of both the Ministry of Sport and the Federation. On that point, I will say this to avoid the next question: we will carry out the World Cup competition in Moscow, although there are problems.
Q: With regard to the global crisis, has the International Gymnastics Federation changed its conditions for carrying out World Cup competitions, which stipulate that the party that is running the competition must make all the necessary provisions?
A: I have no such information. This is a question for the FIG. At the moment we are proceeding on the premise that everything is as before.
Q: Then on to purely sports-related questions. The new Olympic cycle has started. What are the main competitions in this first post-Olympic year?
A: As far as the international level is concerned, we will only have individual competitions this year. The European Championships will take place in Milan in April and the World Championships will take place in London in October. However, the Russian Championships (to be held in Bryansk in the first week of March) will take place with the full program, as we call it – team final, individual all-around final and the various individual apparatus finals. Moreover, we will run the team final according to Olympic regulations, meaning three scores count.
Q: Why will the Russian Championships have a team competition if this year's international competitions only have individual competitions?
A: The thing is, this is the preparatory year for team competitions. The pre-Olympic selection will already begin next season. The fact is that the FIG has changed the selection rules for the Olympic Games. From now on, the first eight teams will be selected for the Olympics in the second season after the Games, and an additional selection will be made in the World Championships directly preceding the Games, where four more teams will join the eight teams which are already known. We must qualify for the Games in the first selection, so we consider this a preparatory season. And, now that we're starting our preparation for the Olympic competitions in London, we believe that the teams ought to train with this rule in mind from the very first.
Q: I see that there are many junior gymnasts training with the main team. Why are they training with the main national team and not with their own age group?
A: It's all for the same reasons. We selected the children who can "aim" for 2012, and included them in training with the main team. I would call this year the year of renewal. We have taken girls born between 1994 and 1996 and boys born between 1991 and 1992 for this training.
Q: Does this indicate that the men's team will fall into the famous "demographic hole" of the early 1990s?
A: I wouldn't say that. Happily, there are many fully functional veterans on the men's national team, and thanks to them, we should get over this "hole" relatively painlessly.
Q: Then on to personal issues. The most acute question - has Maxim Devyatovsky been selected for training (with the national team)?
A: He has been selected. He is trying very hard. In principle, I would not want to make a problem out of Devyatovsky. What happened with him is normal in a group which is adapting to each other. These are growing pains. Now he is proving his right to be on the national team just like anybody else.
Q: What about Anton Golotsutskov and Yulia Lozhechko?
A: Anton has started preparations for the all-around. We will give it a try. If God wills, it will work out. After all, he started off as an all-arounder. Then he concentrated on two apparatus. Now we want him to return to six apparatus. Yulia Lozhechko is currently preparing two apparatus: beam and floor exercise. Her challenge is to prepare routines with maximum difficulty on these two apparatus. If it then becomes possible for her to return to the all-around, we will only be glad. For now she is an essential member of the team for these apparatus.
Q: Are Sveta Klyukina and Dasha Yelizarova not taking part in the training camp?
A: They are recovering (from injuries). For now they are preparing by themselves. They will take part in the Russian Championships and then the question of their return to the national team will be resolved. The same applies to Anna Pavlova, Lena Zamolodchikova and Sasha Safoshkin.
Q: Andrei Fedorovich, this is the start of the second Olympic cycle for you as national head coach. What are the differences between the current start and the one three years ago?
A: This time we are starting straight away with the preparations. Then it was necessary to resolve an awful lot of organizational problems, which interfered with the work with the team.