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A Word by the Winners...

Moscow News, No. 13, 1974    After the competition ended our correspondents asked the winners of the First International Gymnastics Competition for the "Moscow News" prize, to say a few words about themselves.

The 25-year-old Muscovite Viktor Klimenko, of the Central Army Sports Club, has a long string of titles to his credit.  He is an Olympic champion, and twice European overall champion.  It is scarcely a secret that numbers of people thought he'd win the Moscow News prize.  True, they realized that it wouldn't be a walkover.  Vying against him were his no less famous rivals -- E. Kenmotsu, silver overall medallist at the Munich Olympics, and Olympic champions M. Tsukahara and K. Koste (GDR).  Nevertheless, Klimenko proved his worth once again and scored a convincing victory.

"At the end of May," Viktor said, "after the European championships all our plans were compiled with an eye to Varna.  This involved, first of all, infusing the program with complex elements, which means also evolving new dismounts, and performing them well.  I had fallen a little behind the other gymnasts as regards the former, but now I feel on a par with them."

"Naturally, it was a great pleasure to perform in the capital.  I'm a Muscovite myself and, of course, it's much easier to compete at home.  Unfortunately, we have not been spoiled by many international meetings here in Moscow.  The newspaper's initiative in shouldering the tremendous burden of running a tournament on such a grand scale, deserves all possible praise.  I should like to avail myself of this opportunity to thank the organizers most sincerely, all the more since I'll always have this memento of the competition."  (He had the winner's platter in mind.)

What goal did you set yourself at this tournament?

"To perform evenly and without errors.  One cannot relax a moment when the Japanese are about.  If I decide to take part, then I must do so really with all my strength, spare no efforts, and go all out to win.  I believe I managed to do that, even though my routines for three of the pieces are absolutely new.  They are new to me, of course, but not in gymnastics in general.  However, I am no advocate of demonstrating unfinished elements at competitions.  No matter how original an idea may be, it looks poor if the performance is crude, for it lacks zip."

What are you taking with you to the world championship, and what about your mates in the USSR team?

"The season is only just beginning.  This tournament is the first in the series of international and internal matches before the world championship.  Of course, we all, myself included, shall take the highest hopes and our best work with us to Varna, and shall try to win there.  But, though I'm not superstitious, I'd like to refrain from making forecasts.  I would rather wait six months and see what happens.  Let's hope this successful start will lead to a victorious finish."

Svetlana Grozdova said:  "I am very pleased.  Firstly, because I'll be taking such an original coffer back home with me, and, secondly, because this is my first victory at an international competition.  Of course, I shall always remember this tournament and this coffer will serve as an excellent memento."

By the way, what do you expect to use it for?  Maybe first of all you should put the gold and the silver medals you won at the tournament inside?

"With pleasure.  I hope very much that there will be more of them.  I'll make every effort to see that there are!"

Could you be more explicit about your plans?

"Naturally, I want to go to the world championship in Varna.  I'd be happy to be included on the USSR team.  But at the same time I'm very anxious -- you see, our team is very famous, I fear I might let it down, after all.  But you must believe me I'll try my very, very best!"

How did you come to gymnastics?

"I'm 15 now and I've been doing gymnastics for 8 years already.  You mustn't think it was all plain sailing.  First came acrobatics and calisthenics, then after I began training under Zinaida Nasonova, my favorite coach.  I never dreamt of going anywhere else.  For 7 years now I have been in Ruslan Lavrov's class.  I am very grateful to these people who have done so much for me."

Does anybody else in your family go in for sport?

"Well, yes and no.  My parents are both builders.  Father is a masons' team leader, and mother is in his team.  Only my small brother takes after me.  He's in the 3rd form at school now, and trains at the same sports school I do."

Have you a favorite apparatus?

"Of course, I suppose everybody has.  I prefer the beam.  It is a treacherous piece, but I like it.  When you master it, you feel immensely happy.  I try to perform evenly on all the other apparatuses."

What foreign language do you study at school?

"English."

Do you read our paper?

"Unfortunately, no.  But I surely shall now."

We should like to present you a free subscription to "Moscow News" to the end of the year.

"Thank you all over again, both for this and for the splendid prize."

...And by the Coaches

Is it hard to be a coach?  They say it is an impossibly difficult job.  But then Mikhail Klimenko, elder brother and coach of Viktor Klimenko, the winner in the overall event, should know better.

"I'm simply at a loss for words to describe what a great burden coaches carry.  However, blood is thicker than water, so Viktor is for me a brother, first and foremost.  That's why I feel so concerned and anxious about him.  But don't get the idea that I wrap him up in cotton wool.  No, he trains on a par with all my other trainees, but in their case it's enough to pass a word or give an order, and they do as I say.  Viktor is my brother, and has an analytical approach of his own to everything.  Sometimes questions crop up which it isn't always even possible to decide in the presence of others.  So we have to extend our training sessions at home.

"He must be convinced.  If he doesn't believe you, he won't even go near the apparatus, and no amount of prestige is of any avail.

"I'm six years older than he.  In childhood this is a tangible gap, allowing the older brother to lord it over the younger.  But since we are now 25 and 31 respectively, then either of us could be the commander, and age no longer gives one any privilege at this stage.

"He loves gymnastics in his own special way.  It is the same with science -- you see, he's a postgraduate student at a teachers' training institute.  We have now rejuvenated the program in the floor exercises, long horse and in the rings, introducing new complex somersaults and pirouettes.  Others already do what Viktor is demonstrating now.  But how he demonstrates it!  He has not only caught up with the pioneers in this, but has left them behind.  Therein lies his force."

Ruslan Lavrov and I sat side by side.  He is a retiring man of few words.  A smile touched his lips only after the results were announced.  His Svetlana was being congratulated.  We resumed the conversation that was interrupted by Svetlana's performance on the asymmetric bars.  Ruslan Lavrov is a gymnastics coach, and teaches at the children's sports school in Rostov-on-Don.  For how long?  He said he really didn't bother to count the years, but it was a good few.

"Ours is a big school, with more than 100 trainees.  I don't single Svetlana out, but the youngsters all model themselves on her, because there's no doubt that she'll be on the national lineup.  She really deserves our praise.  Her progress at school is excellent, and she trains persistently and painstakingly.

"There are children who have a knack for gymnastics.  You couldn't really say that about Svetlana.  She has no special talents but she works something fantastic, and so she has managed to achieve a great deal."

At present some are all for complexity in gymnastics, other not entirely.  What about you and your pupil?

"One aspect is inseparable from the other.  We are all for complicated elements but, I'd say, with an elegant style of performance.  In this respect, Svetlana is expert at inventing all sorts of things.  She's never afraid to test out her ideas in practice.  She is a thinking gymnast in spite of her youth.  We naturally take care of our girls and boys but, at the same time, strive to teach them how to be independent.  Independence is an asset everywhere, not only in sports.  You see, Lena Abramova, who was placed 4th in the combined event, is also one of my pupils, so I was rooting for both of them.  I'm very pleased to express my gratitude to your newspaper for organizing this tournament where the trainees from our sports school did so well."


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