Publication date : 12/12/2018
Few athletes have been as dominant in their sport throughout 2018 as Russia’s Rhythmic twins Dina and Arina Averina. Here, five-time 2018 world champion Dina reveals rare insight into the mentality she and her sister employ, casts an eye over a dramatic 12 months for her sport and unveils plans to ensure the golden run continues.
The 20-year-old Dina Averina entered five events at the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, and won five gold medals, including the coveted individual All-around gong. Twin Arina Averina grabbed the other major All-around title on offer this year at June’s European Championships. The two sets of results continued a sequence during which the pair have claimed every major individual honour since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Like many great sports people, Dina makes it sound mesmerisingly simple when explaining the reasons behind such sustained success.
“I think it's all because we love Rhythmic Gymnastics,” she said. “And we work hard and we fully trust and listen to our coaches (Irina Viner-Usmanova and Vera Shatalina), set our goals and just go forward to achieve them.”
As a result of this approach, Dina claims to have come into 2018 having pretty much “forgotten” their exploits from the season before – during which she won the World Championship All-around gold and Arina three World Games golds (Hoop, Ball and Ribbon).
“Every season is like a blank sheet of paper,” Dina explained. “You come off the podium, you forget about all your titles and start working again so that you can go forward to your new goals.”
If one falls the other simply steps up…
Between them the sisters each had to deal with injury concerns leading into the two biggest events of the year but that is where having two of you proves particularly useful.
First up, Dina was set to miss the European Championships in Guadalajara, Spain due to injury before disaster struck the gymnast who had been selected to compete in her place.
“Ten days before it Aleksandra Soldatova, who had to replace me, also got an injury,” Dina said. “So, (coach) Irina Viner asked me if I was able to perform and I said, ‘Yes’. I was very happy just to participate. And then I was really happy that Arisha (Arina) won it.”
Win it she did, thanks to a huge score of 79.250 with, who else, sister Dina in second, 1.5 points behind.
The situation was almost exactly reversed three months later at the World Championships in Bulgaria. Arina, the 2017 All-around silver medallist, picked up an injury just two weeks before the start. While she was still able to pick up team gold, and bronzes in Hoop and Clubs, she was devastated to miss out on a place in the individual All-around final having finished third in qualification behind her sister Dina and Soldatova, with only the top two Russians eligible to progress.
“Of course it was obvious that she was very upset,” said Dina, who went on to win individual gold. “When everything was over, I started talking to her, trying to calm her down. I was saying that everything could happen to us, that we had to learn from our mistakes. Arisha listened and talked to me and then she gradually felt a bit better.”
When asked how the two of them celebrated their incredible success, Dina’s answer perhaps helps explain just why they are such winning machines.
“Everyone has a different understanding of the word ‘celebrate’,” Dina explained. “We do not celebrate it, but simply analyse our performances and try to improve something from competition to competition.”
Ashram and others come to the party
The Averina twins were part of a typically dominant Russian display at the 2018 World Championships, the nation’s gymnasts winning seven of the nine gold medals available. It was not only about the traditional powerhouses, however, with the home-crowd favourites Bulgaria triumphing in the Group 5 Hoops and Italy’s irrepressible group grabbing the glory in the 3 Balls and 2 Ropes.
The Farfalle (butterflies), as the Italians are affectionately known, had a fantastic 2018, also winning the Group All-around World Challenge Cup series title, relegating the Russians to second.
It also proved a breakout 12 months for individual Linoy Ashram whose All-around silver at the World Championships was Israel’s best-ever result. A second silver in Hoop and a bronze in Ribbon added gloss to a great week for the 19-year-old.
These record-breaking results were built on an overall World Cup series win and a second-place finish in the World Challenge Cup series, after the Israeli lost out in a tiebreak to Russia’s Soldatova.
“We liked very much Bulgaria, Italy and the girls from Israel and Belarus,” said Averina, reflecting on the competition. “They grew up in their skills, began doing difficult exercises and even won. Also, we liked the Bulgarian and Italian groups with their complicated exercises where you do not even have time to track the gymnasts’ movements.”
But Averinas plan on continuing golden run…
High praise indeed. And, perhaps in response to the strides made by Ashram, Belarus’ Katsiaryna Halkina – a 2018 World and European medal winner – and others, the Averinas have some worrying news for their rivals.
“We are preparing a new programme and we want to surprise everyone in the new season and show the best we can,” Dina Averina said happily. “And, of course, we’re going to qualify for the World Championships and get our tickets to the upcoming Olympic Games.”