New Dress for the New Year...
By Ludmila Dobrova
Fizkultura i Sport, 1974
It happened long ago and was simply an act of childish mischief which came from not understanding the value of life. One way or another she made up her mind to jump from the roof of a two-storey house in order to prove that she would, if need be, do an utterly impossible thing.
So she jumped. However, not all such experiments have a happy ending. She proved her courage but not without injuring her leg. Of course, this form of self-assertion cannot be recommended, but that is Galima Shugurova, absolute world champion in rhythmic gymnastics.
Apparently, every athlete, if he wants to make sports history, must at some stage in life test his own character. Each chooses his method. She jumped from a roof. Why? Today she can hardly explain it. She simply does not remember why she did it. All she vaguely remembers is height and the fall.
Since those long-gone days, she has tested herself on more than one occasion. She has done so in numerous ways but invariably in order to develop new traits of character and carry on her struggle.
Galima and I were quietly talking in the sports complex in Rotterdam, where the world championship was being held. The day had been exhaustively long for everyone. She felt like just stretching out on the rug and lying there without saying a word. But the last, decisive performance lay ahead. What would it bring? Only hours ago, after a series of complicated elements, after a virtuoso jump which turns a rolling hoop into a top (this element is now referred to as the Shugurova spin) Galima had dropped the hoop.
But now such accidents cannot break her spirit.
The very next exercise -- with clubs -- she performed so exquisitely that she won the highest mark.
Running ahead, I will say that in addition to becoming absolute world champion, Galima collected, so to speak, the richest crop of awards -- four gold medals out of the five that were fought for in the individual competition.
This slender black-eyed girl (her height is 159 centimetres and her weight 47.5 kilogrammes) is well known in the sports world. She is a favorite with Soviet fans and champion in the most feminine, lyrical sport.
Galima lives in Omsk, a city in West Siberia. Her introduction to sports took place when she was eight. From the beginning she loved music and soft movements of the dance. In general, she did not intend to go in for gymnastics. She was more attracted to figure skating and choreography classes. But once her friends took her to the sports hall of a factory club to watch a competition in rhythmic gymnastics...
There was no sparkling ice and snow-white tutus here. But the music with its fascinating rapid sports rhythm, returned to her even in her dreams.
"Galima attracted me with her fine sense of rhythm," commented her coach, Galina Gorenkova. "Later, she struck me with her conscientiousness, perseverance and even doggedness. Galima made amazingly quick progress so I had to transfer her to the senior group. Adult girls thought that Galima stood in their way but she could 'outpersist' anyone."
At the age of 15 she first took part in the USSR championship and emerged second in the all-around. Next came another award -- a bronze medal in the USSR Cup competition and success in international competitions in Yugoslavia, where the journalists voted her the "most engaging" gymnast.
Then the coaches of the Soviet national included her in the team. That was a fortunate decision.
The Soviet national team lost the world championship of 1969 and 1971. In those days absolute champion of the world was Maria Gigova of Bulgaria. True, our girls brought home some medals but perhaps that was the most difficult period for Soviet rhythmic gymnastics.
However, by 1972 the Soviet girl gymnasts were on a par in competing with the Bulgarian sportswomen. That was when Galima held first place in her team as champion of the USSR and winner of the USSR Cup. In international competitions in Czechoslovakia she proved to her principal rival Gigova that she was ready to accept her challenge. And she put up a splendid performance at the 1973 World Youth and Student Festival in Berlin.
The training of a champion is always a long, difficult process and demands participation of a wide range of people -- coaches, scientists, doctors, choreographers, pianists. Each of them helped Shugurova in preparing for the 1973 world championships.
In a plant one young expert worker, using his own material and working in his free time, manufactured to world standards 10 clubs for the Soviet national. The first gold medal was won in Rotterdam by Shugurova in precisely the club exercises. Now "Shugurova's 'gold clubs' " grace the plant museum.
Millions of TV viewers saw Galima in all her artistic splendor -- soft, pliable, temperamental, tempestuous. That was what she looked like on the gymnastic rug. In life she is still more glamorous -- she is charming and considerate.
A daughter of a worker, Galima is a student of history at the Omsk Pedagogical Institute. She chose the profession of a historian long ago. Back, in the eighth form, moving from one competition to another, she was attracted by books on history. She devoured them aboard trains and in between competitions. Another passion of Galima's is knitting. She knitted herself a dress for the New Year: it is said that if one sees in the New Year wearing a new dress it will be a happy year.
Last November Galima was 21. She is full of vim and vigor and is eager to compete and win. She will have such a chance in the 1975 world championship next autumn.
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