Highlight: Aliya Mustafina: Russian Gold Medalist in Gymnastics, of Muslim Tatar origin from her father's side
No, not the Egyptian silver medalist fencer Alaa AbdelKassem; not the Saudi runner in a headscarf, Sarah Attar. Not the members of the Olympics teams from the Middle Eastern Muslim majority countries, who are the subjects of articles about the conundrum of competing while observing the Ramadan fast. The invisible Muslim Olympians are the ones the media focuses the limelight on every day without once mentioning that they are clearly of Muslim heritage. A case in point is top Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina, whose father Farhat was also a gymnast.
Is it ever appropriate for the media to mention the ethnic or religious background of athletes? Perhaps the exception should be for athletes of a minority background who are rare role models, particularly Muslims, given that the media focuses first and foremost on the religious affiliation of a criminal or terrorist disproportionately if he or she happens to be of Muslim background. Is there any doubt that, if James Holmes had been called, say, Hussein Mustafa, that fact would have trumped all else in the coverage of the Colorado massacre?
All the better that Aliya Mustafina, like millions of women of Muslim heritage, wears no headscarf and never mentions her religion. The Olympics are about many things, and one of them is shattering stereotypes as well as records.
Who Is Aliya Mustafina?
Aliya Fargatovna Mustafina (Russian: Алия́ Фарга́товна Муста́фина Tatar: Алия Фәрхәт кызы Мостафина, Alia Färhät qızı Mostafina) (born 30 September 1994) is a Russian artistic gymnast who is an Olympic gold medalist as well as the 2010 World Individual All-Around Champion. Mustafina is the most decoratedgymnastics medalist, male or female, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, having won four medals including the silver in the team all-around, the bronze in theindividual all-around final, the gold in the uneven bars final, and the bronze in the floor final.
Aliya Mustafina was born on 30 September 1994 in Yegoryevsk, Russia. Her father, Farhat Mustafin, was a bronze medalist at the 1976 Summer Olympics inGreco-Roman wrestling. Her younger sister, Nailya, is also a gymnast and a member of Russia's junior team. Her family are ethnic Tatars.
Asked about being compared with the former great Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, Mustafina said, "I have no idols and never have. Svetlana was, of course, an amazing gymnast."
About her gymnastics role models, Mustafina said, "I like Nastia Liukin, I adore her elegant and beautiful performances with difficult elements. I like especially her graceful uneven bars and balance beam. Among the Russians, I like Ksenia Afanasyeva. I respect her strong and beautiful gymnastics."
Her coach since 2008, Alexander Alexandrov said, "The girl is very talented, but with a difficult character. However, you don't find much complacency among champions."
London Olympics 2012: At the end of July, Mustafina competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. She helped the Russian team qualify in second place and individually she qualified to the all around final in fifth place with a score of 59.966. She also qualified in fifth placed for the uneven bars final scoring 15.700 and in eighth place for the floor final scoring 14.433. In the team final, Mustafina contributed an all around score of 60.266 towards the Russian team's second place finish.
In the all around final, Mustafina finished in third place with a score of 59.566. She was tied with American Aly Raisman but after tie-breaking rules Mustafina was awarded with the bronze medal. She said, "I performed well apart from the beam (but) I was not totally confident that I would get a medal, even a Bronze – any fall is very bad and it is very difficult to finish in the top three after a fall like that."
In the uneven bars final, Mustafina won the gold medal with a score of 16.133. She said, "I did not believe I could do it. Of course when I got the bronze medal I became more confident. I am very happy and very happy to be following in the Russian tradition." She added, "I am very, very happy I've won gold. Every medal represents its own thing. I was hoping very much to win and I was very happy with my routine. I didn't know what to expect of myself today." Mustafina's gold medal in the uneven bars final ended Russia’s Olympic gymnastics gold medal drought that lasted for twelve years.
In the floor final, Mustafina placed third with a score of 14.900. Her score was the same as Italian Vanessa Ferrari but after tie-breaking procedures Mustafina was awarded the bronze medal. She said, "I didn't expect a medal when I did my floor exercise but I liked how the competition ended. I'm very happy and very tired."