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Aliya Mustafina returns to gymnastics worlds, year after giving birth

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Aliya Mustafina, an all-around medalist at the last two Olympics, made Russia’s team for next week’s world gymnastics championships, 16 months after giving birth to daughter Alisa.

Mustafina, 24, is joined by one Rio Olympic teammate, Angelina Melnikova, and three world championships rookies (plus Olympian Daria Spiridonova as an alternate), according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Mustafina is the last non-American woman to win an Olympic or world championships all-around, back in 2010 in her first year as a senior gymnast. A series of injuries followed, including surgeries on both knees and her left ankle.

She missed the 2015 Worlds with back pain but rebounded for a medal of every color in Rio (uneven bars gold, team silver and all-around bronze, just as she had done at London 2012).

Her seven total Olympic medals are tied for the most by a Russian woman since the fall of the Soviet Union with retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.

Viktoria Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist who has also struggled with injuries, is not on Russia’s team for worlds in Doha. She last competed at a global championship in 2015, sharing the uneven bars title with three other gymnasts.

Mustafina joins a list of distinguished moms to return to the top level of gymnastics, including Oksana Chusovitina, who began competing in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, seven Olympics later, is still competing at age 43 (for Uzbekistan).

The most decorated Olympic gymnast, Soviet Larisa Latynina, earned 12 of her 18 medals after becoming a mom.

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Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina gives birth to daughter

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Star Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina gave birth to a girl a few days ago, national team coach Valentina Rodionenko said, according to R-Sport on Wednesday.

Rodionenko said in January that she hopes Mustafina, the all-around bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, returns to training this fall.

Mustafina, 22, married Russian bobsledder Alexei Zaitsev last fall.

In Rio, Mustafina repeated as Olympic uneven bars champion and earned a second straight silver in the team event as the Russian leader, in addition to the all-around bronze.

Back then, Mustafina said she would take two years off before returning to competition, according to Russian media quoting Rodionenko.

Mustafina remains the last non-American to win an Olympic or world all-around title, back in 2010.

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Aliya Mustafina, pregnant, expected to return to training later this year

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Russian Aliya Mustafina, the all-around bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, is pregnant, confirmed Russian national team coach Valentina Rodionenko, who hopes she returns to training in the fall.

Mustafina, 22, married Russian bobsledder Alexei Zaitsev in the fall. She is expected to give birth in June, according to R-Sport.

In Rio, Mustafina repeated as Olympic uneven bars champion and earned a second straight silver in the team event as the Russian leader, in addition to the all-around bronze.

In Rio, Mustafina said she would take two years off before returning to competition, according to Russian media quoting Rodionenko.

Mustafina remains the last non-American to win an Olympic or world all-around title, back in 2010.

With Mustafina’s absence, there might not be any Olympic or world all-around champions at this year’s world championships in Montreal in October. That last happened in 2009.

Simone Biles is taking 2017 off, Gabby Douglas hasn’t said if or when she will compete again and Italian Vanessa Ferrari, the 2006 World all-around champion, underwent Achilles tendon surgery in September.

The top gymnasts at worlds in Montreal could include Olympic Trials runner-up Laurie Hernandez and Romanian Larisa Iordache, who earned world all-around medals in 2014 and 2015.

MORE: Laurie Hernandez’s thoughts on competing in 2017