What If Alyona Shchennikova Had Represented Russia In 2018?

With Alyona winning the recently finished Voronin World Cup, rumours began to circulate, was she intending to follow the Irina Alexeeva route and leave her life in the U.S. behind to live and train at Round Lake and have a shot at the World/Olympic glory that she will never have in the States? As we all know the American team is extremely deep so unless she suddenly shows up with major upgrades she will always be listed on the B-team. But could she be on the A-team if she were in the mix for Russian teams?

Well just to begin with, she is not even thinking about it she will remain as a part of the U.S. Team, she has already said so. But for the fun of it, we averaged her 2018 scores and imagined she was part of the Russian squad and more or less got a glimpse of whether she could have made it into the two big Russian teams this year: Europeans and Worlds.  

Her 13.883 average vault score would have not be needed at Europeans since everyone on the team delivered a score above 14 but at Worlds, it would have been a different story. Simakova crashed her Rudi vault during qualification and scored a zero, naturally, she was taken from the line-up during the actual team final. Alexeeva competed instead of Simakova but Irina only has a full twisting Yurchenko and to make everything worst Lilia Akhaimova crashed her vault. So yes, a consistent vault worker would have been in consideration.

Bars is Alyona’s best piece but it is also the best apparatus of the entire Russian team. Her average of 14.333 would have made her the best Russian bar worker at the European team final and had she advanced to the European bars final and scored the same she would have placed fourth by the slightest of margins behind teammate Angelina Melnikova. And since we are talking about an average with Alyona being capable of a much stronger result she could have easily passed Melnikova for that European bronze medal.

A 14.333 at Worlds would have left her as 1st reserve to the bars final and during the team final she would have been the second best bars worker behind Aliya Mustfina. So yes Alyona’s bars are competitive enough to get her a spot on major teams despite the Russian depth on the apparatus.

The Russian team is known for struggling with beam consistency and if Alyona had a very consistent set, Russia would certainly be her place with major team spots guaranteed, but beam is not her strongest apparatus.

Russian gymnasts were, surprisingly, consistent on beam at both the European and World team final. The lowest beam score for Russia at Europeans was Alexeeva’s 13.233 and at Worlds it was Simakova’s 13.166. Out of 9 beam routines Alyona performed during 2018 only two scored higher (G.K. Classic 13.400 and first day of Nationals, 13.300) than the lowest scores by the Russians.

As for the last apparatus, Floor, Russia is getting very strong there and Alyona is weak with an average of 12.389. She is well behind of what Russian gymnasts can deliver since they are scoring above a 13.000. The only score lower than a 13.000 at a major team final came from Melnikova at Worlds with a 12.966 (she had a huge out of bounds deduction). As for Alyona only once during 2018, she reached a 13.000, the first day of U.S. Nationals.

As for her all-around potential, if she had scored a 52.994 during qualification at Worlds she would have been the third Russian qualified for AA and would have missed out due to the two-per-country rule.

In Doha, Irina Alexeeva was the second Russian in the all-around placing 13th with a 53.798. However, on a good day, Alyona is capable of surpassing that score, out of 7 all-around performances three were higher than Irina’s World All-Around result. Alyona’s best day in the all-around was the second day of U.S. Nationals with a 54.350 that would have placed her 9th in the all-around at Doha.

As we can see Alyona would have battled Irina Alexeeva for that second all-around spot if they had both made the Russian World team. But the truth is neither of them has all-around medalling potential so making major teams depends on possible team final contributions.

Alyona would have likely made the European team. Uliana Perebinosova was taken to Glasgow solely to compete bars, the same piece where Alyona could have contributed. Uliana averaged a bars score of 14.155 with her best day being qualification with a 14.266, a score that, on a good day, Alyona could have easily surpassed. However, it would have been a completely different story for Worlds selection.

For Doha, Mustafina and Melnikova were locks and even though Angelina Simakova was injured Alyona would have been no replacement to her since the only apparatus where Angelina was used was beam, not a strong piece for Alyona. Regarding Lilia Akhaimova she is a vault and floor worker who crashed her vault during the team final. Alyona is completely reliable on vault but Lilia was also needed for her Floor, an apparatus where Alyona could not have contributed with the same level of difficulty. So, despite Lilia’s inconsistency, they would have still taken her over Alyona.

The only one left for her to push off the team was Irina Alexeeva. Alyona has stronger vault and bars than Irina but Alexeevaa has beam. It would have been quite an internal fight for that last spot but considering how things turned out and how well Irina did internationally it is likely that Alexeeva would have gotten that spot over Alyona who would have ended up as the alternate.  

Next year Maria Paseka (vaulter) and Elena Eremina (bars worker) are coming back to give more depth to the apparatus where Alyona could contribute, making it even tougher for her. So even though she would be on Russia’s A-team for sure, she would not be the immediate first choice for major teams and considering that to represent Russia she would have to move to the other end of the world to live and train, she’s making the right decision to just continue on the United States B-team.

Source of the picutre: Alyona Shchennikova’s Instagram

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