Small Actress on the Big Stage

Donetsk, 25 August 1978. The World Cup champion, 17-year-old Maria Filatova of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, led after the compulsory program at the USSR Cup of gymnastics, outpacing by 0.1 the score of last year's USSR Cup winner Natalia Shaposhnikova (Rostov-on-Don) and by 0.25 points the absolute champion of the USSR, Elena Mukhina (Moscow).

We can argue about Filatova's style, but one thing is certain: in this tiny body lives the large and powerful spirit of a fighter. She, Shaposhnikova and Mukhina each have a different style but all are balanced gymnasts. But at a decisive moment, Masha is able to pull out a trump card and then she has no opponents. I'm talking about artistry and being inspired by the audience.

You should have seen how Filatova performed in the compulsory floor exercise. Hers didn't beat the lovely lace that was woven on the floor by Svetlana Grozdova (whose 9.5 was the highest score of the night from the strict judges). Everything Masha did was sharper, more angular, more sweeping. But originally, Filatova planned to perform the same interpretation as Grozdova. Beside me sat a student of the late Yu. E. Shtukman, Alevtina Demyanenko, once a remarkable performer on floor and now a choreographer. She said, "What she [Filatova] did was interesting. It makes you wonder, though: why this interpretation and is it too much?"

When necessary, Filatova is able to become visibly relaxed. And it was necessary on floor, her final event, because ahead of her Shaposhnikova had scored 9.4 for floor exercise and Mukhina had a great vault for 9.25. Knowing their results, Masha called on all her acting skills, earned a 9.45, and remained in the lead.

During her floor, when the announcer said that Shaposhnikova was leading, Masha seemed to become electrified. While Filatova showed passion on floor, Shaposhnikova looked painfully dull.

Vladislav Rastorotsky, Shaposhnikova's coach, said, "We have to make Natasha open up emotionally when she performs. I know that it's necessary, but I don't know how to make her do this. She doesn't want to open up her soul to the audience - she's so stubborn." I didn't hear what was said by Mikhail Klimenko, Mukhina's coach, but I thought it might have been the same thing. It's time for these two girls to express themselves more vividly, in artistic terms. There is someone they can learn from - our gymnastics stage has never lacked for emotional actresses, and Filatova is one of them.

Speaking generally about the strongest performances of the compulsory program, it's possible to note one thing - a willingness to give almost 100%. It's worth noting that in the top six are three representatives from Rostov-on-Don from three different schools - Rastorotsky, Ruslan Lavrov (Grozdova) and the Svlalov couple (Galina Gluschenko, a strong a graceful girl). Not so long ago there was the "Belarussian trio". Now it's the "Rostov trio."

Belarussian women's gymnastics at this moment show some decline, of course, even with Nelli Kim's appearance. There is delight that she has returned. The reader will remember that the Olympic champion moved to Minsk when she got married. Then, she was sick for a long time and thought about leaving gymnastics, which is understandable. Tiny girls are growing like mushrooms all around you, and you are already 21. And, in women's gymnastics, 21 is "already." But she returned to the gym and began working with Nikolai Miligulo. He told me that there are two keys to her complex nature. First - conscious analysis. "You are an adult, it was your decision to once again start to train, so you have to approach it responsibly." Second - a sense of humor, which is not only charming in general but is Kim's virtue. "She cannot give up and, if necessary, she makes a joke, laughs and cools off."

A series of compulsory scores - 9.2, 9.25, 9.15, 9.3 - must not be seen simply as a flat all-around series, but also from the point of view that Kim trained seriously for only two months. This proves that, in the first place, all great gymnasts still have a huge untapped potential of creative possibilities, which is what Miligulo surely saw in Kim.

Technical Results
USSR Cup in gymnastics. Donetsk. Druzhba Sports Palace. 24 August. Women's compulsory program
1. M. Filatova (RSFSR) - 37.4 (9.3, 9.3, 9.35, 9.45)
2. N. Shaposhnikova (RSFSR) - 37.3 (9.4, 9.25, 9.25, 9.4)
3. E. Mukhina (Moscow) - 37.15 (9.25, 9.35, 9.1, 9.45)
4. N. Kim (Belarussia) - 36.9 (9.2, 9.25, 9.15, 9.3)
5. S. Grozdova (RSFSR) - 36.8
6. G. Gluschenko (RSFER) - 36.65

1. RSFSR - 184.2
2. Belarussia - 182.8
3. Moscow - 180.1
4. Ukraine - 178.5
5. RSFSR-2 - 176.95
6. Kazakhstan - 174.75