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4 Facts About Aliya Mustafina, Because The Russian Gymnast Is One To Watch


Women's gymnastics, one of the most highly-anticipated events of the Summer Olympics, is fully underway now, and U.S. fans are starting to get to know the other competitors. A few of them have pretty interesting back stories, so take a moment to learn a few facts about Aliya Mustafina, the Russian gymnast that's making Team USA nervous.

The list of Russian competitors is notably short this year, due to a state-sponsored doping scandal that led to a number of Russians being barred from participating in Rio's 2016 Olympics. That means there's a lot more riding on Mustafina, as less of her countrymen and women are with her to share the burden. And although the spectacle of the scandal has deeply affected some players – People notes that swimmer Yulia Efimova was booed on Sunday during her first race – Mustafina told USA Today that she hasn't been treated any differently, perhaps because gymnastics was one of the few sports that wasn't caught doping.

Still, Team USA is the favorite to win the women's team all-around, and Mustafina seems nervous: "It's going to be really difficult to compete against the American team, " she told the paper. "They are unbeatable at the moment." But don't count her out yet.

She's Already Been Through Knee Surgery

Russia's Aliya Mustafina is carried away after falling while performing on the vault during the 4th European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Berlin on April 8, 2011. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2011, at the European Championships in Berlin, Mustafina tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) landing a Yurchenko flip. Just eight months later, she was competing at the Voronin Cup, according to Flo Gymnastics, and seven months after that, she qualified for the Olympics. Meanwhile, if I sleep funny I'm sore for weeks.

She's The 2012 Uneven Bars Champion

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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: (R-L) Silver medalist Catalina Ponor of Romania, gold medalist Alexandra Raisman of the United States of America and bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia pose on the podium during the medal ceremony for the on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In London's 2012 Summer Olympics, Mustafina took home the gold medal for her uneven bars routine. She also nabbed the silver for team all-around, as well as two bronze for individual all-around and floor exercise.

She Had Very Little Notice About Rio

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Aliya Mustafina of Russia competes on the vault during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Although she of course planned to compete in Rio, it wasn't a sure thing. After the World Anti-Doping Agency uncovered the doping scandal, it put the fate of the entire Russian team up in the air. The International Olympic Committee had to reexamine every athlete along with the help of "an independent sports arbitrator," according to the Los Angeles Times, and it wasn't until Thursday – the day before the opening ceremony – that Mustafina and 270 of her teammates were cleared to compete.

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She's A Chip Off The Old Block

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Jul 1976: General view of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. \ Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy /Allsport

Mustafina's dad, Farhat Mustafin, is also an Olympian. In 1976, he competed in the Montréal Olympics and won the Soviet Union a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. How awkward was that first family dinner after Mustafina won her gold? We may never know.