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Young mother Mustafina eyes return to elite gymnastics in spring

Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina has resumed training after giving birth to her daughter in June and plans to make her competitive comeback at the 2018 European Championships, where she aims to participate in the all-around event.

The two-time Olympic champion told R-Sport that she has been preparing for the Russian nationals and the continental tournament which will take place in spring.

“I’m steadily picking up competitive shape, we don’t want to speed up my training process, everything is going according to plan,” the 23-year-old said. “I refused to participate at the upcoming Voronin Cup in order not to hasten my return, everything must run its course. Basically, all coaches are pleased with my progress, as they thought I would be able to do some elements far later.

“I’m planning to return to competition at the Russian nationals where I will compete on four apparatuses, but we will see how the things develop. It’s more important to get ready for the European Championships,” she added.

"I’m already doing all four events, just my routines are not competitive at the moment. I’ve easily restored my beam combination, and now I’m trying to bring back my bars routine. I’m also working on element connections and my tumbling, so everything is going smoothly,” she added.

Mustafina shot to fame at the 2010 World Championships, at which she won two golds, including the prestigious all-around title, and added three silvers to her medal haul in individual apparatus finals. She would have been the uncontested favorite to clinch the coveted Olympic crown in London, but sustained a serious injury at the 2011 European meeting while landing an Amanar vault.

A horrific ligament tear kept the gymnast out of competition for almost a year, putting her Olympic prospects in doubt. At the 2012 London Olympics Mustafina, who after her injury was not considered a serious contender, silenced the skeptics by becoming the most decorated gymnast of the Olympic tournament.

Alya, as she is dubbed in the Russian team, grabbed team silver as well as the all-around bronze in London, and amazed the judges with her immaculately executed bars routine which brought her the coveted Olympic title. A day later she added one more bronze after finishing third in the floor exercise.

Four years later, at the 2016 Games in Rio, Mustafina practically mirrored her Olympic results from London by defending her title on the bars and winning her second Olympic team silver and Olympic all-around bronze.

She became the first gymnast in history to become an Olympic champion having recuperated after a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Following her tremendous display in Brazil, Mustafina announced a break from competition, adding that she wanted to concentrate on her private life. In autumn of 2016 she married Alexei Zaitsev, a member of the Russian bobsleigh team, who will compete at the PyeongChang Games this winter. In June, Mustafina gave birth to a baby girl, Alisa, and three months later returned to the gym, bringing her daughter to the training camp at Round Lake.

The three-time world champion has set her sights on participating in her third Olympic tournament in Tokyo in 2020.

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