Gymnasts to recall Beijing at London Olympics 2012

Little time remains until the London Olympics: some are still struggling for their place while others excitedly nurse hopes of medals. The National Olympic Committee has begun organising meetings for those already chosen. Entitled On the Path to London, the callisthenics team are the first to attend.

By Vladimir Dmitriev

The gymnasts brought home two medals from Beijing, while Yulia Raskina and the squad also took a medal at Sydney. This time, Lyubov Cherkashina, Melita Stanyuta and the squad in team performance will have to struggle for medals. The team size is the same number as in Beijing but there is no need to compare them.

The team’s head coach, Irina Leparskaya, agrees, “In recent years, quite a few sportswomen have been acknowledged as leaders but only 4 or 5 could really compete for medals. At present, any of our eight gymnasts could easily claim victory and nobody will be surprised. Our coaches currently train teams all over the globe, gradually raising their level from ‘non-gymnastic’ to worthy. Competition in London is expected to be tough.”

The Belarusian team has also changed. In Beijing, Lyubov Cherkashina made a disappointing mistake in the exercise with the ball, leaving her in 15th place (in the qualification round). However, this failure was compensated by team leader Inna Zhukova’s silver. In London, she is likely to surpass the others on the team, although she remains modest. Over the past four years, Cherkashina has collected many medals at world and European championships and is now ready to continue her mission in London. “In Beijing, I was a novice but I thought otherwise,” she admits. “Since then, I’ve become older, more experienced, wiser and calmer. I have a different view on many things and psychology plays a huge role at the Olympics.”

Stanyuta is also heading for London with new wisdom. Over the past four years, she has experienced every possible situation — from winning her first medal at an early age to injury and the thought of retirement… and then her return to gymnastics. Recollecting 2010, Melita tells us, “That injury changed my life. I not only experienced it but had to spend time restoring my health and fitness. I had to work hard without breaking my spirit or giving up. I now believe in myself and know I can cope with any difficulty.”

The team which won bronze in Beijing has now undergone change. Only three of those sportswomen are headed to London. Alina Tumilovich has only recently recovered from an injury. However, the team and their coach — Tatiana Nenasheva — are decisive. Ms. Nenasheva tells us, “The ‘Talent Fair’ — which has been observed at junior level in recent years — has allowed several countries to show some true gymnastic leaders. However, this year’s competitions have shown that our girls can rival anyone.”

The girls are wary of forecasting their success in London, while assuring us that they’ll ‘do their best’. As Ms. Leparskaya notes, any of our gymnasts could win a medal at the forthcoming Olympics — if Fate smiles.

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