Aliya Mustafina doesn't talk to her coach for 4 days

Published on September 11, 2012 N 36 (917)

The Olympic Champion received a soft toy as a gift from her boyfriend

This young beauty with big dark eyes could easily qualify for the title "Miss Olympics - 2012". Gymnast Aliya MUSTAFINA came back from London as the Olympic Champion and apart from the gold she also brought 3 more medals - one silver and two bronze. None of the Russian athletes scooped that "harvest" of awards in England.

We came to visit the well-known gymnast.

Aliya Mustafina lives with her parents and her younger sister Nayilia in a Moscow block of flats, in an ordinary two-bedroom flat on Lyusinovskaya Street. Her family moved there 17 years ago - very soon after the future World Champion and the Olympic Champion was born.

The gymnast's Mum Yelena Anatolyevna confessed to us:

  • I don't watch my daughter's competitions even on TV. I am afraid to jinx them. I don't even remember when it happened but I saw that Aliya made a mistake at competitions and I thought that it was because of me. When Aliya won the bars in London, I was watching a soap opera on the Internet. Then Nayilia comes in and says: "Mama, our Alka is a Champion!" My younger daughter was supporting her sister in another room when it was transmitted live.


Nayilia is a gymnast too. She became a "Master of Sports", but then something held her back. Aliya is the "Honoured Master of Sports".

- Aren't you jealous of your elder sister? - I am asking Nayilia.

  • I am only happy for her! When judges gave Alka 16,1 on bars, I knew straight away that nobody would be able to overtake her. The last one was that American girl Douglas, who had won at All Around. But she didn't have a chance: her bar routine was not as difficult as Aliya's

Aliya, is it important for you that your friends and family support you on the stands?

  • It doesn't bother me at all. I do realise that my Mum is worried and her worry can transfer to me. It is not that important whether she is going to watch me or not. I switch myself off everything before going on the podium. I don't see anybody and I don't hear anybody. Just recently I have found out that my Dad was going to fly secretly to the Olympic Games and to show himself only at the end. But he had changed his mind at the last minute. He thought that he wouldn't be able to stay away and he would call me anyway. And then I could get nervous and lose. These are my parents. Very caring and superstitious.


-Yelena, are your daughters helping you around the house?

  • If you ask them, they will help. But mainly I am the person who cooks and cleans the flat. We rarely have meals together as a family. Everybody has their own schedule, so it is not easy for the four of us to get together around the table.
  • Quite frequently I am staying at "Lake Krugloye", -  says Aliya. - All the squad gymnasts train there. I eat there in the canteen. My Mum is cooking for me at home. I can't cook much just yet.

- Which canteen is better - at "Lake Krugloye"or at the Olympic Village in London?

  • We have a better choice in Krugloe and our food is like home-made. It was a little bit strange in the Olympic Village. There was some food which I have never tried before. Some things I liked, some things I didn't.

Could you please describe your usual day at "Krugloye".

  • We have a morning warm-up at 8 o'clock, then we have breakfast, then we have our first training session. After a short rest there is our second training session. Then we have lunch and go to school. We have one more training session in the evening and then an evening meal. We go to bed at 11.00 p.m

How many hours a day do you normally spend at school?

  • Two and a half.

It' s not a lot, is it? Which subjects do you have?

- Normally we have subjects that are important for exams. Maths, Russian, Biology...
To be honest with you it is not easy for me. Sometimes I am so tired that I fall asleep during lessons. But I have finished school this year. Now I am a student at Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, distance learning faculty.

- My husband and I advised her to do that, - explained Yelena Anatolyevna . - Aliya is going to study Business Management and Economy. Sport will finish some day but you have to have a High Education Degree.

ALEXANDROV did not leave MUSTAFINA. Although he was asked to do that so many times.

Double Standards

In April last year while doing vault Aliya Mustafina landed unfortunately and seriously injured herself - she has ruptured a cruciate knee ligament. The operation in Germany was  successful, but skeptics were saying that Mustafina would never be able to come back to the former level.

Aliya, when you are doing vault, do you have a fear? What if your leg goes to the side and ....

  • I don't have a fear. If it happened once why would it necessarily repeat again? I am more careful now. If I feel that I won't be able to finish my vault properly, I can change it to less difficult during my run up. For example I would do a double twist instead of 2 and a half.

Are you afraid to fall of the beam?

  • No, I am not. If I lose my balance, I can always jump off. Yes, you will get a lower mark but there is not going to be any injury. But I agree that beam is a very difficult apparatus, everybody can be wobbly on it.

During the All Around finals you and the American gymnast Raisman got the same score - even the thousandths were the same. But you were given a Bronze medal and she was left without it. How was Raisman behaving after the finals?

- She congratulated me. I think quite sincerely. The overall sum of my three best scores was higher than Raisman's. That fact decided the fate of the medal. She was competing after me, she could have been given a one thousandth more and then that could be it - she would have come third. But the judges in London didn't give me any grief. I can't complain.


The famous gymnast is sitting on her favourite sofa with her sister Nayilia (left) and her friend Polina.

Where did they give you grief then?

  • At the World Championships in Holland. I have won gold in the All Around and also I was supposed to win vault, but they lowered my starting value without any reasonable excuse. Our delegation protested against it, but it was declined. They said that it was too late. Do you know - how late? 30 seconds!

It is Scandalous!

  • During the Olympics Japanese were late with the protest as well, and I mean - they were very late. But their protest was not only accepted, it was satisfied. That's why the Ukranian Men's Team was left without bronze medals.

Did you manage to go shopping in London?

  • Our gymnastics competitions finished on the 7th of August and on the 8th we flew to Moscow early in the morning. I wanted to go home already! I had time to buy some souvenirs - before the Olympics, because we have arrived earlier.

-Does the weather affect your mood? If it is constantly raining as it was in London.

  • No, not at all, I like rain, especially thunderstorms.

Could you please explain to us why all the Russian team gymnasts have their personal coaches and you don't?

  • It's just happened like that. At first I was training with Dina Rashidovna Kamalova at CSKA. But she decided to go to America for good and I was left without a coach. My Dad took me to Alexandrov, they know each other from youth. By the way, Alexander Sergeyevich came back to Moscow from America - and he was appointed to be head coach of the Russian women's team. I liked Alexandrov straight away. He reminded me of my Dad.

Do you argue with your coach? Do you have any conflicts?

  • Sometimes I am not talking to him for 3 or 4 days. And he doesn't talk to me.

How come?

  • He gives a training program to all the girls and I do the same as everybody else. When there are days like this Alexander Sergeyevich doesn't talk to me. He pretends that he doesn't see me.

The gymnast's boyfriend gave her this teddy bear. All the medals on its neck are real- Aliya put them there.

Have you tried to apologize to your coach?

  • If he upset me, why would I apologize?!

Isn't it better to talk everything through and sort it out rather than not talking for 4 days?

- You know, it is all very childish- Yelena Anatolyievna tries to explain.- we already got used to her falling out with Alexander Sergeyevich. They both call us from the centre. My husband and I normally listen to one side of a story, then the other. And each of them is right, each of them is hurt. At the end of the day I know that my daughter and her coach will make up anyway. And that's how it goes. Despite everything, they are a great team.

Later the Champion's Dad, Fargat Mustafin, added:

Alka has a very difficult temper, she is very stubborn. Sometimes even I don't understand what could have upset her. It is not easy for me to deal with my daughters, especially with the eldest. When I brought Alka to Alexandrov, I have warned him:" Listen Sergeyich, my girl has got a temper. You'd better stock up on validol (sedative), otherwise a heart attack is guaranteed for you." He laughed and answered:" Never mind, I will cope." Generally he does cope but I can imagine what the cost is!

Aliya, what if Alexandrov refuses to work with you, what are you going to do?

- I don't know. He had been asked already. They said that head coach shouldn't have his own gymnasts. To avoid having favourites. But Alexander Sergeyevich didn't give me up. He can find a right approach to me. So that I would listen to him.

When you are not talking to him for several days, does this mean that you are still listening to him? - I tried to tease her. And I got a very sincere reply:

- Well, yes, I am still doing all the exercises. When I have just started to train with Alexandrov and didn't like something in his words, I was behaving differently. I was just standing there for an hour or two and didn't do anything. Because I was upset.

 A teddy bear with the medals

In the heat of our conversation somebody rang the bell. It was Aliya's friend Polina. She is doing synchronized swimming and she is a member of the Moscow team.

  • Alka is great. She promised to bring the gold medal from London and she kept her word. All our team was supporting her,- said Polina.- I hope that very soon I am going to be in Russia's team and will also train at "Lake Krugloye" with my friend.
  • I wish, - smiled Aliya. - We'll see each other more frequently then.

You are not 18 yet, but you already the World Champion and the Olympic Champion. You are not going to become big-headed, by any chance?

  • I heard about “star fever”, but I don't know what it is yet.

Nailiya, were you fighting with Aliya when you were little? - I am asking her younger sister.

- We were fighting very often. (She laughs) There was always something to fight about - either a toy or a piece of cake. But then we always made up.

- If, for example, I want to play on the computer and Nalya is stuck in front of it and doesn't let me play, I start to get angry, - adds Aliya, - And once again it is leading to an argument. But we fight very rarely - Mum or Dad manage to sort it out in time.

These are only some prizes and awards that Aliya MUSTAFINA and her Dad Fargat received throughout all those years

- Who is going to drive this executive "Audi", that you have been given as a gift after the Olympics?

- Please, don't ask me about it...

- The car is in the garage for the moment, - explains Yelena Anatolyevna. - Alka hasn`t got driving license yet! She is going to driving school. And her Dad promised to help her.

- Aliya, do you have a boyfriend?

- Yes.

- I have noticed a big plush teddy bear with 4 Olympic medals on its neck in the room. His present?

- How do you know?! Yes, it is his present. I like soft toys. One of them, panda, was given to me after my operation by German team coach, Valeriy Belenkiy, he is an ex-Soviet gymnast. This toy had become my lucky charm. I am taking it everywhere, to each tournament. Now, I think, I will have 2 favourite toys.

- What is your boyfriend's name?

- I am not going to tell you.

- His name is Pashka, - her Mum couldn't hold herself, and it looks like she had just given away a huge secret. Aliya glared at her with her dark eyes so that Yelena Anatolyevna stopped short.

- Are you staying in sport for the next 4 years, for Rio de Janeiro?

- Nobody knows what is going to happen in 2016. But I am not going to leave the sport just yet.

Very soon after our visit Aliya went to Maljorka. I was sure that she was going there to have a holiday, but the gymnast corrected me - it was going to be a rehabilitation training trip. Women's team goes to that paradise every year to lick their wounds after the competition season.

Can you imagine!

For getting the gold, the silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics in London Aliya is going to be paid 240 000 euro from the Russian government and four million rubles from Moscow government.


Fargat Mustafin: I was forced to lose the match at the Olympics

We had another conversation with the father of the Olympic champion, a Greco-Roman wrestler. Fargat MUSTAFIN told us that his daughter once gave up gymnastics for 6 months but then she changed her mind. Also he revealed some secrets about the sports officials behind the scenes of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Twice a World Champion, he was asked there to ….lose the wrestling match…

Mustafin was competing in the weight class - 57 kg and he came to Montreal as a favourite to win. Yugoslavian wrestler Ivan Frgich was one of his main competitors.

- Just before the wrestling match with the Yugoslavian, high sports officials approached me and asked to me to give the victory to Frgich. - Fargat remembers. - I flew off the handle, but I was cut short. You see, the head of the International Wrestling Federation was a Yugoslavian  - Milan Artsegan. And nobody except Vanya could win a wrestling match with me. In our sport medals on the biggest tournaments had been already "appointed " to people beforehand. Soviet wrestlers were stronger than anyone else, but in order to develop this sport all over the world part of the gold medals had to go to other countries.

I was unfairly judged during my first match with the Finnish wrestler. I was given two warnings unfairly and I have lost with the score 7:8. Because of that defeat I could count only on the second place - even if I had won the match with Frgich. But I was going to Montreal for gold, just like him.

Fargat Mustafin was told that if he had lost to the Yugoslavian, that way he would had helped .... the USSR team! In that case three of our wrestlers in different weight classes were supposed to win gold medals and the judges wouldn't be overly strict towards them.

- Just before our wrestling match I warned Frgich: that we were going to fight fairly in the first round and I would default in the second round as if I was injured. Before the second round the score was 6:3 in my favour. The wrestling match was quite entertaining for the spectators - he had a black eye and I had a broken lip. And then the doctor announced that I couldn't continue. At the end Frgich became a champion and I was left with the bronze. And our three wrestlers came back home with the victory.


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