Aliya Mustafina: Russian Gymnast Completes Olympics with Bronze in Floor
On Tuesday, at the conclusion of the Olympics gymnastics schedule, most of the dialogue was dominated by floor gold medalist and balance beam bronze medalist Aly Raisman.
It was certainly well-deserved: She dominated the field in the floor, earning a score of 15.6, which was nearly half a point better than silver medalist Catalina Ponor.
And even though Raisman deserves her due, so does floor bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina.
The 17-year-old Russian won a tiebreaker over Italy's Vanessa Ferrari to take third place after earning an execution score of 9.0, which trumped Ferrari's 8.7.
The bronze was Mustafina's fourth medal of the Olympics and completed a run of excellence this summer in which she medaled in each of her events. On Monday, Mustafina unexpectedly took the gold on the uneven bars, and last week, she earned the bronze in the individual all-around—controversially edging Raisman—and the silver in the team final.
Not too bad for someone who underwent ACL surgery just over a year ago.
This Olympics was the absolute best-case scenario for Mustafina, whose career was in jeopardy after a nasty fall during the 2011 World Championships. While attempting a vault during the all-around competition, she came down awkwardly on her left knee. According to the Associated Press via ESPN.com, she was carried off the mat and exited the stadium in a wheelchair before learning that she'd torn her ACL.
At that point, Mustafina was the reigning world champion. She was Russia's first all-around gold medalist since 2003, according to the AP. Her nation's chances of competing with the U.S. and China at the Olympics—which were just over a year away—rested on her shoulders. And suddenly, her dreams of participating—and of bringing gold back to Russia—were in question.
According to ESPN.com, Mustafina contemplated quitting after her injury. She didn't see how she could redeem herself as the best gymnast in the world.
And yet here she is, 16 months post-surgery, with four medals hanging around her neck. It's a scenario she likely couldn't have envisioned as she prepared to go under the knife just last year. It was a long road back for Mustafina, and it was a road she didn't dare imagine she could ever travel down again.
One bronze medal likely would have been fine by Mustafina. A couple of them would have been more than she could ask for.
But she has four, and one of them is gold. And to think that she once considered hanging up her hat for good.
For all those in need of confirmation that quitting is never the answer, they need look no further than Mustafina.
She has four shiny new medals to prove that faith in herself—and a whole lot of hard work—are worth far more than giving up.
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