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Romania, Russia in Final Warm Up for Europeans
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With three weeks to go before the European championships, France, Great Britain, Romania, Russia and Switzerland will take part in friendly meets this weekend. Pictured: Mira Boumejmajen is part of the French squad that welcomes Romania for a dual meet on Saturday.

With three weeks to go before the women's European championships in Brussels, five squads will test their mettle in friendly matchups this weekend.

Russia, the defending European champion, is sending its "A" team to take on Great Britain and Switzerland on Friday in Lindenhof, Zürich. World championship gold medalist Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova lead the squad, which also includes new star Anastasia Grishina and European all-around champion Anna Dementyeva. Maria Paseka and Anastasia Sidorova — both of whom have Amanar vaults but also recent injuries — will get much-needed competitive experience.

Swiss standouts include Olympic qualifier Giulia Steingruber — a contender for the vault title in Brussels — and Nadia Mülhauser, Switzerland's alternate entrant to the 2012 Olympic Games. The British squad includes Nicole Hibbert, Jocelyn Hunt and Niamh Rippin, all members of the history-making British team that took silver at the 2010 European championships.

World floor exercise champion Ksenia Afanasyeva will be absent to rest a small leg injury sustained at last month's Russian championships in Penza, where she was first on balance beam and second all-around behind Mustafina. Afanasyeva said she is hoping to return in time for the Europeans, May 9-13 in Brussels. This year's event is for team and individual apparatus for seniors, and team, all-around and apparatus for juniors.

"I really hope to recover, to have time to prepare and make an impact [in Brussels]," Afanasyeva told a Russian news agency on Wednesday. "Without this tournament it will be very hard to get to the Olympics. The selection of the team goes through several stages - the Russian championships that we just had, followed by the European championships and Russian Cup."

Afanasyeva, who graced the cover of International Gymnast magazine in January/February of this year, said all-arounders Grishina, Komova and Mustafina now form the core of Russia's team.

"I can't say who the team leader is, because now there are three strong gymnasts on the team," Afanasyeva said. "They are all strong in their own ways, so they are all leaders. These three girls are very strong all-around, while I have a strong floor exercise.... [in the time remaining until the Games], I'll try to bring it up to the maximum - there's a lot of work ahead."

On Saturday, France will welcome junior and senior squads from Romania for a dual meet in the northwestern city of Cholet. World medalist Youna Doufournet headlines the French lineup, which will go head-to-head with Romania's top team: Diana Bulimar, Diana Chelaru, Raluca Haidu, Larisa Iordache, Sandra Izbasa, Catalina Ponor, and Amelia Racea.

Izbasa, who missed the 2011 Worlds with a sore Achilles' tendon, is training for the all-around again, said coach Octavian Bellu.

"Sandra is training normally on all four events," Bellu told a Romanian newspaper. "As this European championships is not for the individual all-around, we will decide shortly before the competition which events Sandra will compete."

Though several nations will challenge for medals in Brussels, Russian remains the team to beat, Bellu said.

"Basically there is no change in this regard," he said. "It's clear that Russia will be our biggest adversary."

2012 Switzerland vs. Great Britain vs. Russia
April 20, Lindenhof, Zürich, Switzerland

Competitors
Caterina Barloggio
Jessica Diacci
Sarina Gerber
Sara Metzger
Nadia Mülhauser
Giulia Steingruber
Nicole Hibbert
Jocelyn Hunt
Charlotte Lindsley
Laura Mitchell
Niamh Rippin
Kelly Simm
Anna Dementyeva
Anastasia Grishina
Viktoria Komova
Aliya Mustafina
Maria Paseka
Anastasia Sidorova
Coaches
Keith Richardson
Nick Ruddock
Alexander Alexandrov
Yevgeny Grebenkin
Valentina Rodionenko
Gennady Yelfimov
Fabien Martin
Sznezsana Jordanov
Zoltan Jordanov

2012 France vs. Romania
April 21, Cholet, France

Competitors
Mira BoumejmajenSenior
Manon CormorecheSenior
Clara Della VedovaSenior
Youna DoufournetSenior
Anne KuhmSenior
Valentine SabatouSenior
Sophia SerseriSenior
Diana BulimarSenior
Diana ChelaruSenior
Raluca HaiduSenior
Larisa IordacheSenior
Sandra IzbasaSenior
Catalina PonorSenior
Amelia RaceaSenior
Clara ChambellantJunior
Emeline MagniantJunior
Claire MartinJunior
Amelie PauffertJunior
Valentine PikulJunior
Maelys PlessisJunior
Louise VanhilleJunior
Miriam AribasoiuJunior
Andreea MunteanuJunior
Stefania StanilaJunior
Diana TeodoruJunior
Paula TudoracheJunior
Silvia ZarzuJunior
Coaches
Eric Demay
Cecile Demay
Mariana Bitang
Octavian Bellu
Lucian Sandu
Francois De St. Martin
Ning Xiaolian
Marie Colson
Cristian Moldovan
Lacramioara Moldovan
Alexandru Militaru
Adriana Vinerean
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