Grand Gymnastics Review

Moscow News, #15, 1977   This was a very interesting tournament with more gymnasts from more countries taking part than ever before.  It was the world's biggest gymnastics competition, so far this year as well.  And officials watched it closely, because in a way it opened the long training haul to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.  Probably all the gymnasts at the Palace of Sports were competing with an eye to making their respective country's 1980 Olympic team.

The Soviet team featured a group of young up-and-coming gymnasts, some already quite well known despite their "tender" years.  They were out to settle a lot of things -- first, who would qualify for the European championship (women in Prague, men in Vilnius); second, this was an opening dress rehearsal for the 1978 world championship; third, the strategic one -- training for the 1980 Olympics.  The Soviet coaches and gymnasts didn't conceal any punches, coming up with what could be called the gymnastics of tomorrow.  The women (or 12- to 17-year-old girls) did acrobatic routines in the floor exercises the likes of which even some of the best men gymnasts can't do.  Gymnastics is developing in two directions -- more complex routines and sharper technique in all elements.  If one of these is lacking we're back at the gymnastics of yesterday.

Markelov Out of Reach   Muscovite Vladimir Markelov (b. 1957) is not stranger to world gymnastics.  He was on the Montreal silver medal winning team and has won several international and national competitions, even though this was his debut at the Moscow News event.  He let Romanian A. Georgescu get ahead of him in the first event (floor exercises), but after the second never looked back, and it was clear sailing to victory in the combined exercises, with a six-event total of 57.45 points.  K. Goto and H. Igarashi (both Japan), E. Gienger (FRG) and S. Khizhnyakov (USSR) put on a battle royal for the silver and bronze medals.  The issue was decided in the last two events with Khizhnyakov rising to excellent performances on the parallel bars (9.65 points) and on the horizontal bar (9.5), which won him a second overall (56.5 points).  The experienced E. Gienger was third (56.0) with Soviet lad G. Kryssin (55.9 points), K. Goto (55.8) and H. Igarashi (55.7) rounding out the top six.

The final results in the separate events of the combined exercises showed that the Hungarians still have their hold on the pommel horse.  The famous Magyar wasn't at the competition, but his countryman F. Donath kept his country's winning tradition intact.  Gymnasts from the DPRK put on a good show, winning a first and third in the rings.  J. Roche (Cuba) was second in the long horse.

We were able to get a comment from Leonid Arkaev, senior coach of the USSR men's team, about performances by the Soviet gymnasts and the visitors:  "Vladimir Markelov went all out for this tournament, coming up with more complex routines in some of the events (the parallel and horizontal bars especially).  He was able to accomplish what he set out to do -- put on a solid performance that won him a confident and pretty victory.  I'm very pleased with Sergei Khizhnyakov, a young lad born in 1958 from Rostov-on-Don.  Sergei is an exceptionally hard-working gymnast, who has been in the sport for six years now and is national junior champion.  His skill is mature for a youngster his age, and his routines are complex.  He's been a great success."

"As for our guests, there's the Romanian team in the floor exercises, who performed up to Montreal standards.  On the whole the team is a promising one.  I also liked Henri Boerio (France) and Eberhard Gienger from the FRG.  From what I've seen Eberhard is training hard for the European championship and is doing better and better at every competition.  Neither specialists nor spectators had heard much about the Japanese entries before.  They performed in the traditional Japanese style and didn't show anything new."

"The Moscow News Prize is one of the stages in getting ready for the European championship.  We've looked over quite a few routines and exercises there, and that's been extremely useful."

Those Daring Young Girls   What else can we call them?  The crew of tiny schoolgirls (from 12 to 17 years old) did such complex elements in their routines that it was often hard to grasp immediately how many turns there were in a pirouette, somersault, jump or during a dismount.  Just a few years ago Olga Korbut stunned the gymnastics world with her famous loop on the asymmetrical bars and the backward somersault on the beam.  Now a pirouette has been added to Korbut's loop and several young ladies do a backward somersault on the beam twice in a row.  Natalya Shaposhnikova (coach Vladislav Rastorotsky) gave us so complex a routine on the beam that some of its elements just don't have a name yet.  That's what's so great about our competitions.  It sets the pace for the rest of the season and gives gymnasts a chance to do some of their novelties in public at a comradely meet where team scoring (of which there is none) won't be affected.

Of course, Maria Filatova (USSR) was the most experienced and the best known of all our young women.  Her teammate Shaposhnikova was Maria's only real rival, but blew her chances with a fall from the beam.  Maria kept to her mold -- serious, composed, stubborn and just looking for a fight -- all through.  Even her relative failure on the beam (loss of balance) had no effect on the overall score.  Today Filatova is one of the leaders in Soviet gymnastics.

The six best overall were: M. Filatova -- 38.2 points; N. Shaposhnikova -- 37.55 points; Ye. Mukhina -- 37.4 points (all USSR); S. Kraker (GDR) -- 37.3; G. Gheorghiu (ROM) -- 37.05, and E. Ovari (HUN) -- 36.9.

Aman Shaniyazov was recently appointed senior coach of the USSR women's team, and he watched his charges' performances with the attention of a hawk, jotting things down in a notebook throughout.  He also had a few words to say about the performance of Soviet women and those from abroad.

"Filatova's performance was a success.  She totaled well in the combined events and also showed us a vault which nobody has ever done before in competition.  I think her performance was a good one for the beginning of the season.  She seems a good bet to go to the European championship, and there's still time to polish up some of the things.  This was the first performance this season at a major tournament for Natalya Shaposhnikova, and I think the excitement told on her performance -- remember the beam?  Our main rivals these days, along with the GDR women, are the Romanians.  They had a crew of youngsters at the meet, but even despite their age, one can sense a definite style and a top-notch school of performance.  The girls made a very nice impression but they still don't have the complexity that modern gymnastics demands."

There were no sensations in the finals, with the best in the combined exercises usually the best in the separate events as well.  But everybody gave a free and easy performance which made the competition a very brilliant success.

Former gymnastics great Lyudmila Turishcheva made her debut as a judge at an international tournament, in the floor exercises.  Asked how she felt about it, she said: "I tried to be as objective as possible, because I know from my own experience how much depends on the judges."  Another young lady, Yelena Naimushina, a 12-year-old schoolgirl from Krasnoyarsk (Siberia), was also making an international debut, her first time at major competition in general.  Even though she was obviously very nervous, she managed to place 16th among the 45 entries.

Gymnastics is a sport in which a lot depends on the judges' objectivity.  Videotape was used for the first time at an international tournament, so if a serious argument came up, the judges could see a replay of a performance.  The judges' team led by former well-known gymnast Valery Kerdemelidi was very competent.

Muscovites bid au revoir to the participants in the tournament, wishing them success in sport, studies, work and personal life, and before they left, the tournament sponsors -- the USSR Gymnastics Federation and the Editors of Moscow News -- invited them back for next year's competition.  We hope, as the Moscow Olympics draw nearer, that we'll see more countries at our tournaments and even better performances.

So until we meet again at the 5th International Gymnastics Competitions for the Moscow News Prize in 1978, good luck all!

This page was created on September 26, 2001.
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