Newcomer Vladislava Urazova wins Russian Cup - and sets sights on Simone Biles
Russia's Vladislava Urazova won't be old enough to compete at October's World Artistic Gymnastics Championships but that doesn't mean she doesn't have big goals.
"I dream of Tokyo 2020," she told Olympic Channel, "it’s my biggest dream, I want to perform there, to medal."
"To win over one American girl. Simone Biles," she added.
The 15-year-old Russian, who will be eligible for senior competition including the 2020 Olympics on January 1, claimed her first Russian Cup all-around title Saturday in Penza, Russia, ahead of 2016 Olympian Angelina Melnikova. Urazova earned a 57.732 ahead of Melnikova's 55.932. Elena Gerasimova took the bronze medal at 54.165.
Urazova burst on to the international scene earlier this year, winning four medals including gold with her team and on the uneven bars and silver in the all-around, at the first ever Junior World Championships in Hungary.
"I am happy that we have little girls growing up and getting so strong, so we can compete together in Tokyo," said Melnikova. "I think it will help our team a lot."
En route to her victory, Urazova recorded no score below 14.000, opening the competition with a clean and tidy Yurchenko double full that earned a 14.566. On the uneven bars, she earned a 14.733 after executing an in-bar stalder, in-bar Shaposhnikova, Pak salto, toe-on Shaposhnikova half sequence. She was marvelous on the balance beam where she mounted with a daring layout step out. She also executed a unique front aerial, split jump, Onodi sequence for a 14.233. In the final rotation, she tumbled a triple full and two-and-a-half punch front for a 14.200.
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Melnikova, who stars in the Olympic Channel original series "All Around," for her part was solid all-around, shaking off a major error on the balance beam from Friday's qualification competition. She earned scores of 14.366, vault; 14.533, uneven bars; 13.433, balance beam; and 13.600, floor exercise.
Gerasimova's individual scores were 13.366, vault; 13.833, uneven bars; 13.566, balance beam; and 13.400, floor exercise.
Missing from competition in Penza was double Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina, who withdrew from competition last week.
"I think that she understands that it is difficult for her to be on the team now," said senior national team coach Valentina Rodionenko. "She already began to prepare... But she really assesses the situation. We can’t put a person in a team only for a name."
Regardless, Mustafina insists she still plans to compete for a spot at this year's World Championships.
“I decided to withdraw from the Russian Cup," she told TASS. "But this doesn’t mean that I gave up on my intention to make the team for the World Championships."
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Despite Mustafina's absence, the emergence of Urazova and Gerasimova, along with junior World all-around champion Viktoria Listunova, signals promise for the Russian team with the Olympics less than a year away.
But four-time Olympic medalist Maria Paseka knows that junior success doesn't always perfectly translate into the senior ranks.
"When we were young girls, we also won over older girls," Paseka told Olympic Channel. "But you have to remember your body is changing, everything is changing. If you manage to overcome all of that, you will reach success. I hope Vlada (Urazova) will manage that and will keep winning."