Omelyanchik and Balabanov on Top

Moscow News, #18 1985   New names have been added to the list of overall gymnastics champions of our country.  Oksana Omelyanchik (Kiev) and Yuri Balabanov (Minsk) were the overall champions in Alma-Ata where the 51st USSR championships in combined exercises and team scoring in gymnastics was held.  The women's team from the Ukraine and the men's team from Byelorussia were first in team scoring.

Practically all the best Soviet gymnasts competed.  The championship had one important feature.  The gymnasts competed for the first time according to the new compulsory program.  It is renewed once every four years with account taken of growth of general standards, and is obligatory for the gymnasts of all countries.  It is considered and approved by the technical committees (women's and men's) of the International Gymnastics Federation.  The first performance according to the new program was a disappointment for many gymnasts in Alma-Ata.  Even Bilozerchev, Akopyan, Artemyev and other experienced gymnasts made grave mistakes.  The only justification is probably that the season is just beginning and, in any case, this was only the first test after all.  Still, unique elements were demonstrated at the championship, but in the voluntary program.  This cannot but bring satisfaction because it is evidence of the gymnasts' constant search and aspiration to make even more complex the routines that already seem to be complicated to the limit.

Oksana Omelyanchik, 15, took the lead after the second apparatus (in order to become the overall champion a girl gymnast has to perform as best as possible 12 times during the three days of the competition and a man gymnast -- 18 times).  As the competition progressed the candidates for all the other places changed, but Oksana was first all the time.  The young gymnast has recently done well at the MN Prize -- she was second overall -- and now she is the national champion.  The result hardly needs any comment.  I'll briefly list her accomplishments to date.  In 1983 she was the fifth overall at the Tournament of Soviet Nations.  At the last year's national championship she was fourth overall.  And at this year's MN Prize she was first in the floor exercises and the beam.

Elena Shushunova (Leningrad) was the runner-up.  Elena is more experienced than Oksana.  She has more victories and prizes to her credit but this time she was outdone by Oksana.  This was the first time Elena was the runner-up at the national championship.

Natalya Yurchenko, 20, student from Rostov-on-Don, 1983 world overall champion, was third.  On the last day of the world championship (it was held in Budapest in October 1983) Natalya injured her leg badly but is now gaining her former form after prolonged treatment.  She had already been national overall champion in 1983, and her third place this year doesn't belittle her merits at all.  Natalya has not only found the strength to come back to sport but even to compete for the medals.

Yuri Balabanov, 21, won in extremely stiff competition.  The elegant, amazingly flexible and with brilliant techniques young gymnast has been attracting attention for several years now.  He performed successfully at the Friendship-84 international competition, in London, Nagoya and Peking.  Audiences in the palaces of sports of our country applaud him.

Vladimir Gogoladze, 18, from Tbilisi again surprised everyone.  This was his third major tournament in the course of one month and he demonstrated excellent results for a gymnast who is performing only his first year on the "adult" platform.  To remind you of his achievements -- second overall at the MN Prize in 1985, first overall at Riga-85 and runner-up in Alma-Ata.  He is real good but his routines and style of performance of the most complex exercises are most impressive.

Vladimir Artyomov, 20, from Vladimir was third overall.  He was first national overall last year and 1983 world champion in the parallel bars.  Artyomov led till the last day, but his failure on the pommel horse (only 9.0 points) deprived him at once of all hopes to repeat his last year's success.

Such aces as Alexander Tumilovich, Artur Akopyan, Valentin Mogilny, Dmitry Bilozerchev, Pavel Sut and Sergei Gusev (listed in order from the fourth place upward) failed to win the medals this time.

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MN extends congratulations to gymnasts and gymnastics coaches who were decorated by the state.  We maintain friendship with the USSR Gymnastics Federation for a long time and organize the MN Prize together, and we are pleased that gymnasts who take part in our competitions and their coaches have been given such high awards.  Included among the 445 decorated athletes, coaches and other people in sports are Leonid Arkaev (Order of Lenin, the supreme USSR award); Natalya Yurchenko (Order of Friendship Among Nations); Vladimir Artyomov, Yuri Balabanov, Olga Mostepanova, Yevgeny Paitra, Andrei Rodionenko and Natalya Ilyenko (Badge of Honor Order); Lidia Ivanova, Anatoly Ovsyak, Tatyana Frolova and Natalya Tsapenko (Medal for Labor Valor); Irina Baraksanova, Alexander Pogorelov, Alexander Tumilovich and Elena Shushunova (Medal for Distinction in Labor).

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