Soviet Women Win Meet
By Ron Bracken
The Centre Daily, February 5, 1971 Maybe ex-Penn State all-around star Bob Emery summed it up best when he said, "Gee, they're just like water flowing."
In fact, Emery may have been one of the few spectators on hand at last night's international meet between the Russians and United States women's gymnastics teams who could say much more than "gee," "wow" and "unbelievable" in trying to describe the fluid grace and style of the talented Soviet women and their U.S. counterparts.
A crowd of 7,200 fans packed Rec Hall to witness the latest in a long line of visiting foreign gymnastics teams and what they saw may have been the best of the lot.
One thing's for certain, in Ludmila Turischeva, they saw the best woman gymnast in the world. Holder of the world all-around championship, she clearly dominated the competition, finishing first among the 10 contestants with a combined score of 38.35 out of a possible 40, an average of almost 9.6 for each of the four events.
Working with the precision of a machine and the agility of a cat, she constantly drew oohs and aahs from the capacity crowd as she went through her routines with a degree of perfection seldom seen in Rec Hall. In fact, her performance has to rank with the greatest individual efforts ever put forth in a gym which has seen a multitude of great gymnasts come and go.
As a matter of fact, the entire Soviet team drew cheers from the sophisticated Penn State audience by just going through the warm-ups for the uneven parallel bars, no small task considering this is an audience which prides itself on its ability to judge the quality of a performance.
But while the Russian women were clearly superior to the United States team this cold February night, the youthful U.S. contestants made a contest of it and in doing so, gave notice to the world that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
"It would have been close, within tenths, if we hadn't blown it on the parallel bars," offered Bud Marquette, the manager-coach of the American girls. "Would you believe this is the first time we've had these girls together as a team since last October? Yesterday was the first they were able to work out as a team and it was the first they were able to work with the pianist for their floor exercise routines."
"But the Russian team is very solid. And don't forget, as a team, they're a couple of years older than our girls and that maturity means a lot. If we can keep our girls together as a team for a while, I think we can do alright. This is the type of competition we need. A meet like this will be a big help to us."
"I thought the meet was handled nicely," Marquette continued. "No, this isn't the first time we've performed in front of a crowd like this. We've performed in Pauley Pavilion and at Long Beach State in front of big crowds. But this one is knowledgeable."
"I think we gave them a good battle," said petite Cathy Rigby. "I think it shows we're ready to move up with the top teams in world competition. A meet like this one is good for us. Before we always competed against teams which we knew we could beat and that didn't help us much when we went against the top teams."
When asked why she performed the last two events without her slippers, the perky blonde from Long Beach, Calif. explained, "They just washed the mats down today and they were pretty slippery so I took my slippers off so I could get a better grip."
"The audience here is very appreciative. I hadn't heard about them until I got here but I understand they have a reputation for being knowledgeable. But it wasn't the first time I have performed before a crowd like this. The Japanese were like this when we had a meet over there with Russia, Japan, Czechoslovakia and the United States." Miss Rigby placed second on the balance beam during the World Games held last fall and represents one of this country's brightest hopes for future international competition.
"Whew, those women are good, aren't they," said Penn State Coach Gene Wettstone, the man who masterminded the whole evening. "I thought everything went well, it was a nice evening."
Following Lyudmila Turischeva in the all-around standings was teammate Zinaida Voronina with a 37.85 total and completing a sweep by the Soviets was Rusudan Sikharulidze with a 37.45. Wendy Cluff and Joan Moore tied for fifth with scores of 37.00 to lead the American women.
The top three finishers were awarded cut glass vases dating back to the 19th century.
The two teams exchanged gifts at the close of the competition and the Soviet team members were presented bouquets of roses.
A spokesman for the Russian team expressed the team's appreciation for the warm reception it received and mentioned that the team members could tell by the reaction of the fans that they appreciate gymnastics.
The top three finishers were given a standing ovation after they received their awards and acknowledged the applause by smiling and waving to the crowd. The second half of the two-day spectacular will get under way today when the Russian men go against a team of past and present Penn State gymnasts. Starting time is set for 7:30 p.m. The action will be televised over WPSX-TV and will also be taped by ABC TV's Wide World of Sports for viewing next Saturday.
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