Aliya Mustafina gave an interview to VTB, talking about her comeback to gymnastics, how she manages to combine training with raising a baby and what impressed her the most in gymnastics in 2017.
Q: How are the first months after coming back to training?
A: I expected it to be much harder. And when I started getting back and realized that it wasn’t so hard for me – perhaps because I expected it to be way harder – I was very happy and started wanting it even more.
Q: This comeback – why do you need it? What is your motivation?
A: I was interested to try how it is – to come back after giving birth. Because in my life, I had comebacks after injuries and after breaks and it was interesting how it would be after giving birth. How hard it is, whether it’s even possible. Plus, I’m hoping that in the future my example, perhaps, will show to someone that life doesn’t end after having a baby and you can also get back on track.
Q: How do you combine the athletic career with the family life and motherhood? Can you tell your secrets?
A: First of all it’s thanks to people who are around you. Those who will help. Second is wanting it: if you want to have your day full – with the baby and with training and any other things, everything will work out. And third, I guess, is the opportunity – when you have the opportunity to do it this way.
Q: Who stays with your daughter when you “go to work”?
A: My mom doesn’t work and can devote herself to her granddaughter completely. I think this is the most precious thing I have and if I didn’t have it I likely wouldn’t come back.
Q: What happened in Rio? A miracle?
A: Well, I guess it’s a tradition that during the Olympic year everyone’s whispering around that I won’t be able to fight for a medal, I won’t be able to do anything – I’m only filling the holes on the team like people said. But I have experience, after all, and I understand that to be ready a month before the competition is too early. I understand it very well, I’ve been through this, I’ve competed when I was ready a month before – and I’ve been unsuccessful. But when I’m not yet ready a month before and still getting there, it’s completely different, it means that I will peak exactly at the competition. And I don’t care what others are saying.
Q: Are you friends with the other national team gymnasts outside the gym?
A: Yes, all the girls are very dear to me on every team I competed on. I always have good relationships with everyone and I’m very glad when we meet, when we go out together, when we just hang out.
Q: How is it to be the team captain?
A: The thought that I’m the captain gives me the strength to compete well because the younger girls are watching me and if I’ll go out and start saying “I’m afraid, I’m scared” – I can imagine what they’ll feel. And because of that I keep myself under pressure and don’t myself any slack.
Q: Where will gymnastics go in the next few years?
A: I never look into the future – it’s not like it’s not interesting, but I’d rather not know what awaits ahead. But I hope that gymnastics will grow and will become more beautiful which is very important. Because you can’t replace the beauty of this sport with anything. The difficulty is fine and all but its beauty, I think, is more enticing.
Q: What was this season’s revelation for you in gymnastics?
A: This season I was impressed by men’s gymnastics. All the rules and the routines were changed, so, if you compare it with Rio, the difficulty got lower by half a point. But the guys already managed to upgrade it the way that their routines aren’t different, they upgraded and upgraded, I don’t know, like, doubled it, so that their D scores almost didn’t drop, the scores are still sky-high. So, I guess this was the most memorable this year.
Q: Have you already thought about what you’re going to do after retirement?
A: I decided for myself that I probably won’t leave the sport completely, I’ll still want to help in any way. To help the new girls who’ll be on the team or to help in some completely different way like making gymnastics more popular. But I don’t think that I can retire in a way that the word “sport” won’t be in my life anymore.
Q: What do you think about the doping scandal and banning the Russian team from the Olympics?
A: I think that if such a wave has already started, it means that maybe we didn’t notice something, perhaps, showed a weakness to someone somewhere so that they managed to cling to us like this. I think that the most important thing right now is not to go against it. After all, it’s very important because whatever the reason was, politics or not, or because we’re such a strong country, I don’t know, but if we go against it now, it won’t stop.
Q: Is there a moment from your childhood that you always remember with a smile?
A: Well, I guess it’s not even a moment but some actions that mom told us about and the whole family laughed. For example, she compared me and my sister and said that my sister was careful – say, she’s crawling on the couch and sees the edge, she won’t crawl there. But I always went ahead and, accordingly, fell from couches.
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