Angelina Melnikova turns time away from gym into positive

The Russian 'All Around' star reflects on how quarantine made her "more mature" as she gets ready for season debut in Japan.

By Scott Bregman and Ekaterina Kuznetsova

2016 Olympic gymnastics team silver medallist and 2019 World all-around bronze medallist Angelina Melnikova of Russia says she thought about her sport all the time when she couldn’t train during the coronavirus quarantine process earlier this year.

“It was difficult mentally because I thought about gymnastics every day,” said Melnikova in an Instagram live chat with Olympic Channel. “My muscles were lost.”

Still, that forced time away from the gym may have ended up helping her, she said later.

“I felt very sad when I found out that the Olympic Games were being postponed,” Melnikova told us. “But after the quarantine, when I came back to the gym and recovered, I realised that my health has gotten better, that I became older, more mature. I started treating gymnastics differently, too. I think it has played in my favour in the end.”

She also used the time to enjoy her parents and other relatives, read books and practise her English.

Gearing up again

Back training in Moscow, Melnikova now has her sights set on 8 November, when she’ll compete at the Friendship and Solidarity Competition in Tokyo. The competition will be Japan’s first international sporting event in the COVID-19 era and will feature other stars of the sport, including two-time Olympic all-around champion Uchimura Kohei and men’s World champion Nikita Nagornyy.

“Yes, I’m going to Japan,” she confirmed, speaking in English publicly for the first time. “It will be a very important competition for me because it will be the first competition of the year.”

Melnikova feels confident that she can deliver a good performance in Tokyo, despite the time away from both competition and training.

“Currently, I am fully recovered. I recovered all my programs, I thought it would be harder. But it was rather easy... well, easy is a very relative term,” she said of her current fitness. “Right now everything is well, everything is the same.”

An All Around breakthrough

The 20-year-old stars in the Olympic Channel original series All Around, along with 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd of the United States and China’s Chen Yile, who won the 2018 Asian Games title.

Filming for Melnikova has become second nature, she said. Though those closest to her feel differently.

“My family was very amazed about it,” she said with a laugh.

Melnikova had a break out season in 2019, winning the first individual global medals of her career at the World Championships in Stuttgart. The series, she says, played a little role in her all-around bronze medal.

As she waited backstage prior to competition, she saw the trailer for All Around play on the arena’s giant screen. That brought her joy and helped calm her nerves.

“I was very worried because it was [my chance at] my first individual medal at the World Championships,” said Melnikova. “It was very important to me, and I was very happy.”

'Love what you do'

That happiness in her sport is part of her success, and part of what has kept her going through the ups and downs of the past year. It’s also part of her advice to young athletes looking up to her.

“I think the most important thing in the life of any gymnast is to fall in love with gymnastics,” Melnikova offered. “Maybe it sounds like a cliche, but love what you do. As long as you fall in love with what you do, you will be going up. But if you do everything through some force, then nothing will work.

“My very first coach made me fall in love with gymnastics. I trained constantly feeling inspired and a lot of things worked out,” she continued. “When after difficulties you don’t give up, but come back and become even better. This means that you fell in love. “