Storms and Suffering on the Podium

April 23, 1978  The 44th individual championships of the USSR for women has ended.  And it was an excellent competition.  It was a tense, desperate competition because the participants were not allowed to carry over their scores from the first day. 

Of course, not all complex elements were successfully performed.  But they continue to stimulate the trainers and gymnasts to conquer the "routines of the future."  There was a certain panic on the podium, and any of the first five gymnasts could have won the competition.  This was not the situation a few years ago. 

Making their debuts in senior competition were 13-year-olds Tatiana Arzhannikova from Vitebsk and Elena Naimushina from Krasnoyarsk.  They competed in the company of such masters of sport like Maria Filatova, Elena Mukhina, Svetlana Grozdova and Elena Davydova.  We suppose it wasn't easy for these youngsters.  But one characteristic of youth is daring.  And both of these 6th graders performed very boldly.  Yes, and how!

The strongest group of gymnasts began on vault.  Maria Filatova was first.  Everyone knows her layout Tsukahara.  She scored 9.65.  Such a score must be dismissed.  When the 9th grader from Leninsk-Kuznetsk, a Siberian city where one of the country's biggest training centers is located, decided to perform a Tsukahara with a twist it was exact.  10 points!

The vault of Valeriya Zhidunova, a 9th grader from Mogilev, was a Tsukahara with a twist but she still has not perfected it.

On the other hand, Elena Naimushina pushed away from the springboard like a small ball and her flight was clean.  Elena Mukhina vaulted the complicated Cuervo, but it was low and received a poor 9.45.  Mikhail Klimenko gave her some advice and Lena, this serious girl, not only listened attentively but corrected the errors on her second vault.  All phases of the vault were precise -- 9.8.

After the first rotation of the finals Mukhina was the leader, but Filatova was behind by only 0.1 and T. Arzhannikova, that impulsive and risky girl, was tied with Filatova.  What a situation it was, when at each moment the lead could change.  The atmosphere in the Sports Palace was electric because, we repeat, things could change at any moment.

That moment would come during beam.  But first was uneven bars.  All the gymnasts were inspired by the beautiful duel between Mukhina and Filatova.  Lena and Masha commanded attention.  Earlier in the competition Masha had fallen, so during the training session between preliminaries and finals she worked all day without exhaustion and repeated her combinations on uneven bars.  In preliminaries, she fell twice from the bars while performing new skills in her routine.  The problem was discovered.  She didn't perform her salto on the low bar, nor did she perform her giant swing on the high bar.  The judges gave her 10 points, but the appeals jury lowered her score by 0.2 -- which was not sufficient to take the lead.  Mukhina also scored 9.8.  Her combination of "Korbut loop" with a full twist (this modern element was given the name "Mukhina loop") caused the audience to gasp in fright and delight.

Balance beam.  The young gymnasts with their complex exercises performed well, compensating for their unsuccessful performances on uneven bars.  Naimushina received 9.95, Lena Nikolaentseva from Frunze received 9.85.  Zhidunova -- 10.  By the way, Nikolaentseva, a student of Galina Dolgopolova, made a very strong impression at these championships.  Slender and shapely, she displayed excellent coordination and a contemporary program.

And so it was Mukhina's turn.  From a distance she resembles Ludmila Turischeva: the same figure, the same womanly style, the same serious demeanor.  And errors.  Yes, Turischeva also made errors.  Elena missed a salto and suddenly found herself on the mats.  What an annoyance!  9.0.  She was behind by almost a point now.

Filatova concentrated while approaching the beam.  In preliminary optionals, she had received 10.05 points.  And now, if all went well....  If it went well....  But, evidently, she could not control her youthful nerves.  Masha fell -- also after a salto.  And she also fell on the dismount.  8.85.  Farewell to a medal?

But what happened to Mukhina?  She could not continue.  Her leg was hurting, because she had hit it on the beam.  She was given some ice.  The trainers feverishly read the scores.  Mukhina was in first, Arzhannikova was behind by 0.1, Zhidunova by 0.15, Filatova and Naimushina by 0.2.  And suddenly the appeals jury registered a correction and raised Filatova's beam score by 0.2.  Therefore, Lena and Masha were now tied.

The Palace of Sport erupted.  After a while, the coaches accepted the validity of the score, but what about the girls?  It was crowded near the leaders.  Everyone was anxious, everyone was calm.  Little children ran about, requesting autographs.  Lena decided at that time to continue!

Tatiana Arzhannikova, a student of Vikenty Dmitriev, wowed the audience.  Her floor routine, composed by Elena Kapitonova, was original and lively.  And the acrobatics she displayed earned a score of 10.2.  It was Mukhina's turn.  Suddenly someone gave her a note that read, "Don't worry and win!"  Lena closed her eyes and forgot about her leg.  Her opening Tsukahara was faultless, as were all the other acrobatics.  Her accompanist Alexandr Makarov stood up from the grand piano with his face covered in sweat.  The score was 10.2!

Lena Naimushina, a student of Valentin Shevchuk and Tatiana Tropnikova, performed to the music of "Kalinka," arranged by Evsei Vevrik and choreographed by Lidia Sokolova.  She was excellent -- 10.15.

And Maria Filatova ended up sitting quietly and sadly.  Her "Aragon Dream" was very good as usual, but this time her moon salto was not so good.  9.75!

So ended this dramatic and very difficult final competition.  Seventeen-year-old Elena Mukhina, a student at the Institute of Physical Culture, won her first national all-around title.  Tatiana Arzhannikova and Elena Naimushina also won their first medals in adult competition.  Valeriya Zhidunova finished fourth -- a good result.

Technical results
44th USSR championships of gymnastics. Chelyabinsk, 21 April.  "Yunost" Sports Palace.
Women, optional finals. 1. E. Mukhina (Army) 77.35, 2. T. Arzhannikova (Dinamo) 77.25, 3. E. Naimushina (Burevestnik) 77.1, 4. V. Zhidunova (Red Star) 77.0, 5. M. Filatova (Burevestnik) 76.9, 6. G. Glushchenko (Trud) 75.025, 7. S. Zakharova (Trudovie Reservi) 74.7, 8. S.  Grozdova (Army) 74.375, 9. L. Pogorlyuk (Army) 74.225, 10. E. Nikolaentseva  (Alga) 73.9, 11. L. Degtyareva (Dinamo) 73.75, 12. E. Aleksyutina (Burevestnik) 73.125.


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