Komova vs. Mustafina - Another Case of Grace vs. Power?

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from gym-skate blog


Back in 2008, Nastia vs. Shawn was the face of the “grace versus power” battle. The all around wasn’t just a fight for a gold medal but a question of what direction our beloved sport would take. Is the sport headed in the direction of difficulty at the expense of grace? Is it possible to be a power gymnast and be at the top? Did the Code of Points leave room for artistry to be rewarded or is it all about difficult tumbling? We all know how the 2008 battle ended. This year’s battle for the all around crown could very well be between another set of compatriots – Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina. Is this another example of grace versus power?


Mustafina became a senior in 2010 and, in her debut year, became World Champion in the all around. She also competed event finals in every event, which is very rare these days since gymnasts need two vaults in order to qualify for vault event finals. In this sense, one could call her a true all-arounder. Her 2 vaults are an amanar and a round off half on, full off which earned her a silver medal in the event finals. She also earned silver medals on uneven bars and floor exercise but landed in 7th place on beam due to a fall. Personally, I think this was due to fatigue – how many gymnasts compete all around in both team qualifications and team finals, in the all around final, AND event finals in all 4 events? One word: Baller. [Let’s just hope that fatigue isn't an issue in London!]


I first noticed Komova at the Youth Olympic Games that were held in Singapore in 2010. What did I love about her? Probably what everyone else loved – her grace and line, but I also loved her pre-dance onto the floor before she got into her opening pose. Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that make one happy. Her 2010 YOG FX can be found HERE. At 2011 Worlds, Komova received the silver medal in the all around, missing out on gold by just 0.033. She made event finals in uneven bars, beam and floor. Komova won gold on the uneven bars, perhaps redeeming her all around performance. Like Mustafina, Komova fell in the balance beam finals to finish in 8th place and then withdrew from the floor finals.

Based on Worlds, Mustafina has an all around gold medal, and silver medals in vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise. Komova has an all around silver and a gold on the uneven bars. Based on pure numbers, it seems like Mustafina wins out but we also need to consider injury. Komova was recovering from a nagging ankle injury during Worlds. Mustafina is now recovering, rather well, from her ACL tear. Komova recently underwent surgery again while Mustafina won the All Around at the Russian Championships and showed an upgraded and medal worthy uneven bars routine. I think the battle in 2012 between the two Russians will be very interesting.

Looking at vault, both Mustafina and Komova “have” Amanars – the coveted 2.5 twisting yurchenko worth 6.5 in difficulty. Mustafina tore her ACL at the European Championships in 2011 performing an Amanar but she insists that she will have her Amanar by the time the Olympics roll around. Komova was warming up the same vault at 2011 Worlds but decided not to perform them in competition – Team Russia decided to play it safe in the team final and all-around final. Komova tends to have a large step back in her Amanar while Mustafina tends to have smaller step but tends to “helicopter” her vault so we'll call them even on this event.

Uneven bars and balance beam is where the difference between these two lovely Russian gymnasts comes out. On uneven bars, Komova seems light as a feather and has such long lines, most visible to me during her pak salto. She flies – I don’t think there is another way of describing this. Her moves are so controlled and she gets good height and maintains good form throughout. On balance beam, Komova may not attack in the same way as Mustafina but she tends to be incredibly precise. Precision can also be her demise as we’ve seen her fall on things that many people believe she could fight for. However, Komova’s flight series is amazing – a back handspring connected to 2 back layout step outs. It’s a clean and refreshing method of showing how dominant Komova is on the beam and it also takes us back to better days of dance and along the beam flight series.

On the other hand, Mustafina is in attack mode, not necessarily in a Ponor-esque way, but I still feel like she makes very clear to the bars and beam who is boss. Instead of being light and airy, Mustafina is more aggressive. Her combination to the low bar is amazing. Originally, I was referring to her old combination of Tkatchev, Pak Salto, Stalder 1/2, toe-on to high bar. She shows control after the stalder 1/2 when she is in perfect handstand. However, at the Russian Championships she debuted this routine which featured an inbar stalder full, pak salto, stalder shaposhnikova 1/2 (EDE, +0.4 in CV), a routine with a 7.0 d-score.



Finishing on floor exercise will be interesting for the two ladies considering they both can do very well on this event. Mustafina has a demeanor that demands your attention. She has a presence on the floor and her eyes just lure you in. Mustafina is graceful, but also very powerful. Her old routine had a 3.5 twist in it, a tumbling pass that only a few athletes have competed. In recent video, we have seen that Mustafina has her triple twist back and is also competing a 2.5 in her routine. I just hope all this twisting doesn’t hurt her ACL again. Here is her routine from the Voronin Cup in 2011 and this past week's Russian Championships.

Komova, again, is very balletic. She seems to fly effortlessly in her split series and is able to elegantly move her body in a way that makes the Swan Lake remix lovely to watch. In her floor routine, she has a double Arabian, double tuck, triple twist, and double pike as her tumbling passes. When she performs cleanly, she is a pleasure to watch.

Although Komova is dainty and clearly graceful, how can you not call her powerful when she too can do one of the most difficult vaults in the world? And while Mustafina is artistic, you cannot deny the power and intensity with which she attacks everything. Many people on youtube are calling Mustafina "The Queen" and describing her as mesmerizing. Both gymnasts are incredibly graceful but in different ways – one has such a peaceful fluidity to her movement while the other demands your attention with every move. They are both enchanting gymnasts but for entirely different reasons. The grace versus power debate comes up in these 2 gymnasts but they still manage to have the “style” and “artistry” that we gym fans live for.

Barring no major errors, I’m curious to see who ends up on top in London.

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