WITH her regal bearing and hypnotic choreog- raphy, Russian veteran Ksenia Afanasyeva would have fit in as splendidly well on the Soviet team at its 1980s artistic apex as she stands out as an aesthetic rarity on the world scene today. Afanasyeva’s gold medal-win- ning performance on floor exercise at last fall’s world championships in Tokyo remind- ed observers of bygone gymnastics beauty which even contemporary judges deemed title-worthy. Afanasyeva, who was born Sept. 13, 1991, in Tula, has redefined her role on the Russian team over the past two Olympic ycles. She competed on three events at the 2006 Junior European championships in Volos, Greece, where Russia romped to a 6.20-point victory. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Afanasyeva finished sixth in qualifi- cations, but as the third highest-scoring Russian, she could not advance to the all- around final because of the two-gymnasts- per-country limit. She went on, however, to finish seventh in the beam final in Beijing.
The stately Afanasyeva finished second all-around to training partner Ksenia Semyon-ova at the 2009 Europeans in Milan, and
then helped Russia win its first world team
title at the ’ 10 worlds in Rotterdam.
Following knee surgery, she returned to
form in Tokyo, where Russia ceded team
gold to the U.S. and she placed seventh all-around despite a fall from balance beam. As
the last performer in the floor final in Tokyo,
Afanasyeva proved to herself and the world
that form, flow and musical interpretation
merited acknowledgement, praise and victory. She is now steadying herself for this summer’s London Olympics, where she aims to
give her ultimate performances.
THOMAS SCHRE YER
In this exclusive IG interview, the straightforward Afanasyeva reflects on her world title
and describes her pursuit of perfection.