The Russian women’s team blitzed the field during the first day of competition at the 2013 Universiade in Kazan, winning the team gold by an enormous 10.5 point margin.
Astonishing? Maybe not. Each member of the Russian team — Aliya Mustafina, Anna Dementyeva, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Tatiana Nabieva and Maria Paseka — is either a European, World or Olympic medalist on one or more events, making theirs perhaps the most accomplished team ever to compete at a Universiade.
They certainly acted like it in front of the home crowd, taking full advantage of their pole position in the team final, competing in the last session at the end of the day. Their final tally after a bevy of hit routines was 175.5, miles ahead of Japan (165.0) and Germany (162.05).
Mexico, which also sent an experienced and accomplished team to Kazan, finished fourth (158.35), followed by North Korea (156.6), which is making a return to World competition this season following a two-year ban for age falsification.
The Japanese team showed clean and precise gymnastics, but could not challenge the difficulty of the Russians. Nor could Germany, Mexico or the rest of the pack.
2012 European all-around champion Mustafina was strong in the qualifying round, hitting all four events in spite of noticeable form errors on her twisting elements on floor exercise.
Mustafina, who competes like someone who knows the difference between qualifications and finals, still managed to top the rest of the women’s field with 58.9 points. She notched the competition’s top scores on bars (15.0) and was second on beam behind teammate Anna Dementyeva (15.3-15.2). Behind her in the all-around standings was 2011 World floor champion Ksenia Afanasyeva (56.55), who debuted a much more classical new routine on floor and received the highest score on that event (14.75) in return.
2008 European Junior champion Tatiana Nabieva, back after not competing much in 2012 and not making the Olympic team, was the surprise of the day, showing steady and elegant routines on all events to finish third in qualification (56.05 points). Due to the two-per-country rule, only Mustafina and Afanasyeva will advance to Tuesday’s all-around final, however.
Mexico’s Elsa Garcia was the top non-Russian finisher, qualifying fourth to the all-around final (55.25 points.) Right behind her was Canada’s Ellie Black (55.2), who had the highest score of the day on vault (14.65).
Browse full results from day one of gymnastics at the Universiades in the photo gallery here.
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