Aliya Mustafina, a former World all-around champion and challenger to Simone Biles, will miss next month’s World Gymnastics Championships primarily due to a back injury, according to Russian reports quoting Mustafina and the Russian team coach.
Mustafina, 20, won all-around medals at the 2010 World Championships (gold), 2012 Olympics (bronze) and 2013 World Championships (bronze) and was fourth in 2014 while dealing with health problems.
Mustafina has been a stalwart in the Russian program. With her, the Russian team took silver behind the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics and bronze at the 2014 World Championships.
Biles and the U.S. will have clearer paths to gold at Worlds in Glasgow next month not only because Mustafina is out but also because China’s Yao Jinnan has also been sidelined following a reported shoulder surgery.
Yao finished fifth in the all-around at the 2013 and 2014 Worlds, tops among Chinese, and led China to silver behind the U.S. in the team event in 2014.
Then there’s Russian Olympic all-around silver medalist Viktoria Komova, who missed the 2014 Worlds due to health problems and is attempting to come back this year. Komova, though, fell twice on an uneven bars routine at an event in Russia this week.
The biggest threats to Biles becoming the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles next month could be whichever countrywoman joins her in the all-around final (perhaps Olympic champion Gabby Douglas or Aly Raisman) and Romanian Larisa Iordache, who won silver behind Biles at the 2014 World Championships but has dealt with an ankle injury since.
The U.S. team for Worlds is expected to be announced in early October.
MORE GYMNASTICS: Simone Biles routs Douglas, Raisman for third straight U.S. title
*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Larisa Iordache as Russian.