Liubov Charkashyna is on Fire!

When the experienced gymnast from Belarus Liubov Charkashyna won the Montreal World Cup many thought that her success was partially due to the fact that the strongest Russians, Kanaeva, Dmitrieva and Kondakova, were not there. In Montreal, Liubov won the all-around gold, silver medals with ball, hoop and clubs, and a bronze with ribbon. She did so despite an injury that was tormenting her and affecting the quality of her jumps. Here is her ribbon routine from Montreal:

This routine shows that, even while injured, she is able to perform very confidently.

Shortly after Montreal, I read that Liubov had broken a finger during training. But in this year's World Cup event at Pesaro, Italy, she seemed injury-free, confident and brilliant. This time Charkashyna was in the presence of the Russian stars Kanaeva and the two Dasha's; she also faced serious competition from the Azeri prima Aliya Garaeva, the unique Bulgarian Silvia Miteva, as well as Israel's top gymnast, the wonderful Neta Rivkin. This time Liubov won the bronze in the all around, silver with ball and hoop, bronze with ribbon and a GOLD with clubs where she defeated even the Russians.

I think it is high time we acknowledge that Charkashyna's success is not due to other people's absence, injury or bad luck. The fact that she has stood on the podium in ever apparatus for two World Cup events is something that not even Kanaeva manages to do. And I think that Charkashyna's success is due to her own merit: she is ready. In her mid-twenties, this very talanted gymnast has shown confidence and has finally learned to avoid silly errors in competition. She has come out with interesting and more expressive routines and she enjoys performing them.

A couple of weeks ago I posted her hoop routine from Montreal in January showing how she made a huge mistake but recovered fast and finished with the second hoop. Her performance of the same hoop routine in Pesaro in March was absolutely world class:

Belarus has two more amazing gymnasts, Sasha Narkevich and Melitina Staniouta. They are younger and very, very beautiful to watch. Melitina is already a bronze medalist from last year's World Championship, but unfortunately suffered and injury that required surgery and has not performed yet this season. Sasha Narkevich won two golds in Montreal and performs what I think is one of the most impressive ball routines of all times. The two young Belorussians are two of my favorite gymnasts right now, along with Kanaeva, but both Sasha and Melitina need to work on their expression.

Liubov, on the other hand, has shown something that we all waited to see from her: maturity. She has had a very strong start to the season and she is very, very expressive. I think both judges and audiences around the world value the artistic and technical quality of her gymnastics, which has reached its highest level.That's why my "bet" this year is on Charkashyna. I want to see her medal at more big competitions and I want to see her come out on the carpet with the confidence of a queen. Meet the grown-up, brave Liubov: this is our next Lukyanenko, our next Zhukova. Except better, because she is faster, more flexible, and charged with a very special energy of her own.