Five Assets, Two Liabilities

Sovetskii Sport

October 29, 1987. Seven wonderful evenings of captivating gymnastics gave us virtuosos on the Rotterdam platform. And the farewell to the championships in the Ahoy Palace was a little sad, because one wants beautiful moments to last forever!

For us Soviet fans, five days were, in all respects pleasant and upbeat, when we were in the lead or celebrating a victory. But two days made us grieve: our girls lost the team medal and the next day lost the overall crown.

One of our well-known coaches already called the editors and asked to speak about his thoughts, which called itself the theme, "Where is our women's gymnastics?" I believe this can be an honest and frank conversation about the fate of gymnastics.

Readers will remember that the message of the triumph of Rotterdam of our men in the all-around final had a somewhat unusual title: "Three Heroes." You would have thought it was a victory by weightlifters, wrestlers, or hammer throwers. But no, the good news was about the great performances of Dmitry Bilozerchev, Yuri Korolev and Vladimir Artemov, who occupied the pedestal. All six (including Valery Lyukin, Vladimir Novikov and Alexei Tikhonkikh) could quite objectively be called heroes. After our gorgeous sextet literally knocked out their rival, breaking away from China (who won the gold medal at the 1983 world championships) by more than 6 points, we won the gold medal.

The strength of any team lies in its leader or leaders. We physically could not beat the Japanese at the Olympics in Mexico City or Munich, or at the world championships during those years, because their main competitors were ahead of us in innovative solutions of composition, and in the rapidity of thought, not showing gymnastics of "today" but of tomorrow. Then Nikolai Andrianov appeared, which led to Alexander Dityatin, Alexander Tkachev, Vladimir Markelov - and the long-awaited turnaround.

In sports, resting on one's laurels is like death. The Japanese, as we have seen, too long reveled in the highs of Eizo Kenmotsu, Mitsuo Tsukahara, and Koji Gushiken. They didn't have back-ups. Perhaps the Japanese coaches forgot the old adage - reserves should be ahead of the current favorites. The young Japanese gymnasts, at best, repeated the exercises of their elders, and now came the bitter retribution: the once brilliant team of the Rising Sun ended up in 5th place, and none of the team members won a medal.

I take the liberty to say that in recent years, our women gymnasts also acted on the principle of "timing." Nellie Kim, Elena Davydova, Olga Bicherova, Natalia Yurchenko, Olga Mostepanova and, lastly, Elena Shushunova and Oksana Omelyanchik - these are the gymnasts who fought for the others and paved the way to the unknown. We didn't stand still, we didn't depart from the concept of very difficult gymnasts...but remained artistic, lyrical and sublime.

Now, at some point our domestic championships turned into a mad race for complexity, although it's clear that in this regard we are ahead and can take a little breather - we shouldn't continue to escalate ultra-difficulty but pay attention to overall stability. It's a shame that this season artistic gymnasts such as Olga Bicherova, Olga Chudina, Elena Shevchenko, Natalia Frolova, Olga Strazheva, Vera Kolesnikova, Eka Zeturidze, and Svetlana Lebedinskaya didn't survive the race.

The current team was selected by the principle of sport, although it could be "on the merits" that the silver medalist of the European championships, Aleftina Pryakhina, wasn't included in the top six.

There were nervous competitors andnervous coaches at the most recent USSR Cup, and the senior trainer of the women's team, Andrei Radionenko, transmitted his doubts to most participants. Too often it was said, "Oh, the Romanians are unusually strong; oh, they have Silivas and Dobre." Yes, it's so, but it's not necessary to be afraid of them, and to adjust to the difficult battle without any reservations. This attitude didn't happen. The girls tried hard, they tried very hard. But there was no prowess. The Romanian gymnasts beat us with the same weapon they shot at us at the competition in Montreal (1976) - daring, fun, boldness. And yet, it's apparent that our rivals had more definition in accented movements, spectacular dismounts and less noticeable errors and faults.

I am confident that we have more high-class gymnasts than any other team. Maybe because of this wealth we have begun to ignore young talents, and just look at those who have slightly more overstretched complexity with a certain indifference and skepticism?

We haven't taken a step backwards. We didn't retreat. It was just a pause on the long road to the Olympics. Even a respite. And now it's necessary to storm, with new forces, a predetermined height, the name of which is Olympus.

This page was created on May 31, 2014
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