Storming the Heights
April 6, 1977. The Moscow News tournament ended Saturday, and all athletes (except those from France and the GDR) traveled to the capital of Latvia. The citizens of Riga provided for the "Riga-77" competition - everything at the sports palace was beautiful and festive.
The men competed first. On our team we saw again Alexander Agafonov (Moscow), Valery Lozhkin (Leningrad), Alexander Tkachev (Voronezh) and Vladimir Tikhonov (Rostov-on-Don).
Secretly, I was told that Tkachev would show a new element on high bar. I wasn't surprised; "discoveries" have become commonplace. But it's still nice to write about another invention of Soviet coach Pyotr Korchagin that will be named the "Tkachev flight" after the first gymnast to perform it. It's a pity that Sasha nearly fell at the beginning of his high bar routine and that his "flight" crumpled. He scored 8.95.
Merited coach of the RSFSR Pyotr Korchagin said, "My pupil Alexander Tkachev is 19 years old and is a student at the Voronezh Pedagogical Institute. His biggest achievement was a 7th place finish at last year's USSR Cup. The senior coach of the Soviet team, Leonid Arkaev, named Sasha as a candidate for the Olympic team for Montreal. Tkachev wasn't inferior to the other candidates in terms of complexity of exercises, but he failed to enter the top six last year due to instability."
"I'm trying to understand: what is the cause of this instability? The guy is calm, balanced, works hard during training, analyzes his errors. In principle, I believe that he simply hasn't had the time to perfect the material - he's learned a lot of difficult things in the past two years. So before we arrived in Riga, we decided to attempt this new "flight" on the high bar. It didn't turn out quite as we had wished."
"No, Sasha performed well today. Floor - 9.5. Parallel bars - 9.4. Vault - 9.2. Rings - 9.35. Only high bar didn't go well. Of course, I was sad but he wasn't worried and told me, 'This is still the plan' and that everything would be all right at the national championships in Vilnius. I believe him."
On his first event Philippe Delesalle (CAN) scored 9.6 and Ferenc Donath (HUN) scored 9.5. These two gymnasts were among the leaders after pommel horse. The tall, thin Canadian showed modern combinations on floor, high bar and pommels and, if not for an error on parallel bars, he would be among the medal winners. The stocky Hungarian Donath fought hard and took third place, 0.1 ahead of Tkachev.
Credit must go to Vladimir Tikhonov. He was a member of our team in Montreal, and experts called him a very promising gymnast. During these months after Montreal, this 20-year-old student has clearly improved. He has upgraded his combinations on pommels and high bar. I asked Vladimir, "What did you think of your performance?" He replied, "I knew it was my time. I did a good job, and I performed to my level."
Technical Results, men's optional program
1. V. Tikhonov (USSR), 57.0; 2. H. Igarasi (JPN), 56.25; 3. F. Donath (HUN), 55.9; 4. A. Tkachev (USSR0, 55.8; 5. F. Delasalle (CAN) and S. Siraisi (JPN), 55.
Fifteen-year-old Olympic champion in the team competition Maria Filatova of Leninsk-Kuznetsk won the "amber beam" at the Riga international gymnastics tournament for the second consecutive year. Her all-around score was 37.95 points. In second was Steffi Kraker (GDR) with 37.35, and in third was Lyubov Yudina (Rostov-on-Don) with 37.15 points.