My Pick for Russia’s 2012 European Championship Team: Maria Paseka

4:04 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Photo by Stefan Wurzer

Currently, the Russian European Championship Team is listed as Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, Anastasia Grishina, Ksenia Afanasyeva, and Anastasia Sidorova. 2011 World Floor Champion Ksenia Afanasyeva recently withdrew due to illness and the lack of training caused by this illness (some reports have also mentioned a leg injury sustained from Russian Nationals). Mustafina, Komova, and Grishina are considered locks for this European Team as well as for Russia’s Olympic Team. I agree that Sidorova should stay on the roster and would choose Maria Paseka to replace Afanasyeva.

Anastasia Sidorova has been the athlete most often rumored to be doing the Amanar, the coveted 2.5 Twisting Yurchenko with a 6.5 difficulty score. Head Coach Alexander Alexandrov is very passionate and very vocal about his team needing Amanars in order to compete with Team USA for gold at the Olympics. If Sidorova is one of the Russians to have an Amanar, I believe that she will be on the team heading to the Olympics. Gymnastics is a sport of reputation so it will be important that Sidorova can get in front of international judges and show what she is worth.

The gymnast that I think will take Afanasyeva's place is Maria Paseka. Paseka was originally assigned to the World Team but then had to withdraw due to injury. Yulia Inshina was the athlete chosen to replace her. Inshina already has international experience and even made the balance beam finals at 2011 Worlds. Again, if Paseka can get the Amanar, she will join the aforementioned trio and she, unlike the others, really needs the international experience in a competitive stage. She would most likely be used on vault and floor exercise, as her uneven bars and balance beam do not compare to the trio.

You can see her powerful vault from last weekend below. Can she do the Amanar?

Dementyeva is one of the other gymnasts up for this spot but I’m not sure she will get it. She already has 2 years worth of international experience compared to the new seniors, like Sidorova, or those that have not had as much experience, such as Paseka. Some of the factors working in Dementyeva’s favor is the fact that she is reigning European All Around Champion and reigning Balance Beam Champion. On the other hand, she has not been performing as she usually does. In the 2011 World Championship team final, she was only used on balance beam and had a somewhat shaky performance. Her recent competitions have also been shaky so I am curious if the coaches will want to risk her reputation in the case that she still is not ready.

After this meet, the athletes will also compete at the Russian Cup. Hopefully, Afanasyeva will be back for that meet and all athletes will be healthy. That meet, along with the European Championships, will be one of the defining meets to determine Russia’s Olympic team.

The European Championships will take place May 9-13 in Brussels, Belgium. Full schedule can be found at