BELARUSIAN female gymnasts pep- pered the dominant Soviet team from 1960-80, but their international pres- ence has dashed significantly since
independent Belarus last qualified a women’s
team to the Olympics a dozen years ago.
As the only female gymnast from her coun-
try qualified for London 2012, Anastasia
Marachkovskaya finds herself in a familiar
role, although a knee injury she suffered after
she alone represented the Belarusian women at
the 2008 Beijing Games left her doubting she
could fill it twice. “I wasn’t thinking about a sec-
ond Olympic Games,” says Marachkovskaya,
who injured her left knee while vaulting in
March 2009. “After my injury, I wasn’t really
planning to come back. … My coach helped
me and led me to it. I was thinking about it for
a very long time, Do I really need this? I decid-
ed to go for it.”
Although Marachkovskaya placed 48th in
Beijing and 40th at last year’s worlds, her Lon-
don aspirations are less comprehensive. “In
principle I’m not a serious all-arounder because
I have problems with bars,” says Marachkov-
skaya, who was born Sept. 19, 1990, in
Minsk. “I never did them (much), but I’ve been
doing them strictly to move forward to the
Olympics. I don’t really have a goal of making
the all-around final. I will try to do well on my
best two or three apparatuses.”
Vault is Marachkovskaya’s best apparatus,
having placed second at the Cottbus Tourna-
ment of Masters in March. She plans to
upgrade her vaults, which are usually a 11⁄2-
twisting Yurchenko and a handspring-piked
barani, to a double-twisting Yurchenko and lay-
out barani, by London.
Marachkovskaya credits Dmitry Lappo for
pushing her just hard enough through her second Olympic cycle. “It’s much more comfortable than with previous coaches,” she says of
her rapport with Lappo. “I had many. One
here, one there, one left for America, one I
couldn’t work with. If I wanted to finish,
nobody would stop me. It sometimes happens
that you say to yourself, ‘That’s it!’ I have a
great relationship with my coach. He would
understand where I’m coming from.”
Along with Lappo, experience since Beijing
has infused Marachkovskaya with confidence
and authority. “Psychologically I changed a
lot,” she says. “I am much stronger. I got older
and matured. You feel more responsibility
towards everything you do. It’s more of a job
now. You’re trying not to get neurotic, because
that could lead to injury, and everything will
end if that happens.”
Marachkovskaya plans to finish on her own
terms. She may compete through next year’s
Europeans, to coincide with the completion of
her university studies in coaching. While her
inevitable retirement will leave a void in the
Belarusian program, she says systematic revi-
sions are needed if Belarus wants to again field
an internationally competitive team. “I think
everything has to change,” she says bluntly.
“Even when I came here (to the training center
in Minsk) when I was little, it was already lower
than before. But gymnastics was regarded
much more highly back then. It was never like
one coach would train his or her own gymnast.
There were coaches who coached everyone on
everything. There were seasoned, knowledge-
able coaches who could give you advice and
support. Now it’s every man for himself.”
“After my injury, I wasn’t
really planning to come
back. My coach helped me
and led me to it.”
She also says better equipment and overall
conditions are needed, to enable expert coach-
es to safely teach the difficult skills required for
international success. Better promotion and tal-
ent scouting could generate a bigger talent
pool, she says, even if it means recruiting from
kindergartens as was the scouting method used
in Soviet times. “You have to really get the pub-
lic involved so you’ll attract more children,” she
says. “You find 10 (potential gymnasts) but end
up with three. One may be not bad but the
other two are nothing special. You still have to
work with the most talented, because gymnas-
tics is such these days that how you work with
that one child counts for everything.”
Clearly, the task bearing and boosting the
Belarusian standard in London is not weighing
on the placid Marachkovskaya. “I’m calm,” she
says. “I don’t feel pressure. I do it for myself,
and nobody’s pressuring me.” —J.C.
Men’s FX: 1. Philipp Boy GER 15. 20; 2. Tomas Gonzalez CHI 15. 15; 3. Tomislav Markovic CRO 15.00.
PH: 1. Xiao Qin CHN 15.925; 2. Daniel Keatings GBR
15.775; 3. Max Whitlock GBR 15.525. SR: 1. Chen
Yibing CHN 15.675; 2. Arthur Zanetti BRA 15.60; 3.
Eleftherios Petrounias GRE 15.55. VT: 1. Igor
Radivilov UKR 16. 25; 2. Dmitry Kasperovich BLR
16.112; 3. Gonzalez 16.00. PB: 1. Mitja Petkovsek
SLO 15. 50; 2. Oleg Stepko UKR 14.800; 3. Cyril Vieu
FRA 14.625. HB:1. Epke Zonderland NED 15.725; 2.
Paul Ruggeri USA 15.525; 3. John Orozco USA
PONOR, ZOU TAKE TWO
Olympic gold medalists Catalina Ponor (
Romania) and Zou Kai (China) won two titles each at
the fifth Doha Cup, an FIG Challenger Cup meet
held March 28-30 in Doha, Qatar.
Newcomers Kirsten Beckett (South Africa)
and Demet Mutlu (Turkey) competed credibly,
placing fourth and fifth, respectively, on
Beckett, who turned 16 on March 5, is
coached by Ilse Laing and Shirley Watson at
Johannesburg Gymnastics Club.
Mutlu, 17, was born in Izmur and began training at age 6. She is coached by Ozgur Gumuslu and Aysel Gumuslu.
Women’s VT: 1. Giulia Steingruber SUI 14.662; 2.
Nadine Jarosch GER 13/837; 3. Teja Belak SLO
13.812. UB: 1. Beth Tweddle GBR 15.175; 2. Jiang
Yuyuan CHN 14.875; 3. Lisa Katharina Hill GER
14.575. BB:1. Catalina Ponor ROU 15. 30; 2. Ashleigh
Brennan AUS 14.325; 3. Marta Pihan-Kulesza POL
13.90. FX: 1. Ponor 15.275; 2. Diana Bulimar ROU
14.725; 3. Jiang 14.00.
Men’s FX: 1. Zou Kai CHN 15. 50; 2. Tomislav
Markovic CRO 15.025; 3. Vlad Cotuna ROU 14.825.
PH: 1. Saso Bertoncelj SLO 15.225; 2. Liao Qiuhua
CHN 14.825; 3. Cyril Tommasone FRA 14.625. SR:1.
Liao 15.575; 2. Davtyan Vahagn ARM 15.55; 3.
Danny Rodrigues FRA 15.525. VT: 1. Du Wei CHN
16.012; 2. Artur Davtyan ARM 15.725; 3. Marek
Lyszczarz POL 15.55. PB: 1. Guo Weiyang CHN
15.275; 2. Yann Cucherat FRA 15. 20; 3. Claudio
Capelli SUI 14.90. HB: 1. Zou 16.075; 2. Cucherat
16.275; 3. Guo 14.90.
CHINA TAKES SIX IN ZIBO
Chinese gymnasts, including 24-year-old
women’s vault champion Cheng Fei, won six
gold medals at the World Cup of Zibo, China,
held Apr. 7-8. Yao Jinnan won bars and beam,
but Australia’s Lauren Mitchell won floor to
prevent a Chinese sweep of the women’s golds.
THOMAS SCHRE YER
Women’s VT: 1. Cheng Fei CHN 14.512; 2. Alexa
Moreno MEX 14.412; 3. Yamilet Peña DOM 14.125.
UB:1. Yao Jinnan CHN 15.675; 2. Huang Qiushuang
CHN 15. 20; 3. Larrissa Miller AUS 14.60. BB: 1. Yao
15.175; 2. Huang 14.775; 3. Lauren Mitchell AUS
14.625. FX: 1. Mitchell 14. 40; 2. Victoria Moors CAN
14.025; 3. Huang 13.775.
Men’s FX:1(t). Flavius Koczi ROU, Steven Legendre
USA 15. 45; 3. Alexander Shatilov ISR 15. 30. PH: 1.
Krisztian Berki HUN 15.75; 2. Louis Smith GBR