The Need to be Persistent and Obstinate

Tbilisi, March 5, 1976. The female portion of the tournament in Tbilisi generated much interest from spectators and specialists. Everything was unusual: the disitribution of medals, the broad attack "on all fronts" from almost-unknown gymnasts, the amazing routines on the apparatus, even the scores. Was this good or bad?

They say that everything is mixed up on the platform due to the introduction of new rules, which essentially boils down to this: for the execution of very complex and original elements, bonus points are added to the "normal" assessment. Moreover, all such elements or combinations had already been given tariffs. So, it happened that young gymnasts. S. Grozdova, E. Davydova, N. Shaposhnikova, M. Filatova and O. Koval won the top five spots in the all-around.

Naturally, with the new rules there has been some reappraisal of values [of elements]. But perhaps it's not just them, though the experiments caused numerous complaints from coaches. Of course, it would be better to apply these rules at the youth championships and then make corrections and additions. However, the experiment was carried out. The thinking of some athletes and coaches is now that they clearly have seen their weaknesses and defects.

The international rules for women have no such provision where the execution of very complex elements bring bonus points. But for the performance of an "ultra-C" element, the judge can consider the purity of technique and take fewer tenths. Of course, a bright and showy routine is valued more than a "smooth" one with sufficient difficulty.

Now, many are saying that the Romanian Nadia Comaneci won the European Championships and the Pre-Olympics with super-difficult elements. This is a misconception. Yes, Comaneci's combinations are very impressive but they are performed with the highest level of virtuosity. Her main thing is not the trick, but purity.

What did we see at the country's championships? Debutantes on the senior platform E. Davydova, N. Shaposhnikova and M. Filatova produced amazing combinations in the all-around. I was struck by tricks from Moscow's E. Mukhina and E. Aleksyutina and Rostov's L. Yudina. Does this mean that these young gymnasts will have an advantage in the international arena? Perhaps, but on the condition that the exercise must be performed at the same excellent level as N. Comaneci. In the meantime, our young talents' combinations are obviously not polished and not stable: one fall is too much.

And take the compulsory program. Soviet gymnasts have always good at "school" figures, and here we must not lose the benefits of E. Saadi. N. Dronova, N. Kim or O. Koval who quite easily beat the other athletes. Do not think that I am hinting at the inability to gradually include onto the team for Montreal the debutantes from the Tbilisi platform. We have a lot of pretenders to the Olympic team, and each one - I stress this - has a chance to receive the coveted ticket. I remember before the Munich Olympics there were hot debates with respect to Olga Korbut. It was said that she would ruin the team, that her routines would not be liked by the judges. That's what it means to be persistent, obstinate, working and working on improving one's skills, no matter what the gossip and doubt!

For me, so far it is clear that Svetlana Grozdova honorably won the first selection stage. Her routines on beam and uneven bars are excellent. But Sveta needs to pay attention to the compulsory program, to tighten her vault and improve her acrobatics on floor exercise. And then she can compete with the best in the world. I am convinced that this can be done in time for Montreal.

Pretenders to the team will compete in various competitions, the most important of which are the Moscow News tournament (April 1-4) and Riga-76 (April 5-8). And May 17-23, the USSR Cup which will be held in Moscow, where all candidates for the Olympics will have their skills evaluated according to international rules. And then everything will fall into place.

By Galina Shamrai, merited master of sport