He Would not Give up Until he Won a Gold

Soviet Life, January 1977  
"Finally we won the victory we waited so long for....," said Nikolai Andrianov, when he became overall gymnastics champion at the 1976 Olympic Games.  This blond 23-year-old youth has just won about every prize there is in gymnastics.

In 1964, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Soviet gymnasts lost the gold medals in the individual all-around competition to the Japanese.  That same year a young boy dropped into one of the gyms in Vladimir (a city in central Russia) and asked well-known coach Nikolai Tolchakov if he could join his group.  For 12 long years Soviet gymnasts would rate second at the Olympic Games until the Vladimir boy would bring the Olympic gold medal back to the Soviet Union.  When Andrianov first came to the public's attention by winning the USSR Championship a year before the 1972 Olympics, famous gymnast Mikhail Voronin said of the 18-year-old: "At last the USSR team has a gymnast who can beat the Japanese."

By the time he won the first World Cup competition, held in the fall of 1975 in London, Andrianov had already had several victories in international competition to his credit.

He had won the gold medal in the floor exercises at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.  But his main rivals -- the Japanese -- still did better.  In the very first event -- the floor exercises -- Andrianov landed badly and sprained both ankles.

Ahead were the side and long horse, rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar.  It is amazing that he managed to complete the competition as though he felt no pain.

At the Montreal Olympics, in addition to the title of all-around champion, Andrianov earned three more gold medals in the floor exercises, the rings and the vault, a silver medal on the parallel bars and a bronze medal for the side horse.  If we add his silver medal for the team's performance, the number of medals won by Andrianov in Montreal runs to seven -- a record in men's gymnastics.

Experts claim that in the all-around competition Andrianov has no weak points.  He himself says that he never divides the events into favorite and non-favorite.   Several years ago he was not ashamed to admit that he felt unsure of himself on the rings.  But he worked especially hard on them and now handles that piece of equipment even better than the others.  His Olympic gold medal for the rings proves that.

Nikolai Andrianov has devoted more than half of his 23 years to gymnastics.  He has no intention of retiring.  "I hope," he says, "to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.  Right now I'm studying at the sports department of the Teachers Institute in Vladimir.  After the 1980 Olympics, I'll become a coach and, like my mentor Nikolai Tolkachov, will work with children."

His first charge will probably be his son Seryozha.  Young Andrianov can follow the example not only of his father, but also of his mother.  Gymnastics fans know the name Lyubov Burda; she was twice on the Soviet women's gymnastics team that took gold medals at the Olympics.  Three years ago she married Nikolai.  The 22-year-old athlete has given up competing temporarily to bring up her two-year-old son.

The Andrianovs want their first-born to be healthy above all.  But who knows what the future has in store for little Seryozha?  Maybe he will be a champion too.

This page was created on June 22, 2001.