My Friend Viktor Klimenko

By Valery Karasev
Master of Sport, International Class

1975 USSR Sport Calendar

Viktor Klimenko joined the USSR national team in 1967. We were on the same team at the Mexico Olympics and the Ljubljana world championships. But I knew Vitkor earlier. At a competition in Moscow, when he was 15, everyone was struck by his gymnastics talent. Thin, flexible, springy, he easily beat his peers. He is coached at CSKA by Vladislav Sergeevich Brezhnev, a thoughtful and knowledgeable pedagogue.

When I became closer friends with Viktor, I learned that his brother Mikhail Klimenko took him to the gym. A good gymnast himself, Mikhail taught his younger brother the sport, and Viktor surprised many by learning things quickly and mastering complex elements.

I liked Viktor for his prudence and his inclination to analyze his competitive performances. He kept a diary where he carefully recorded his training results. Viktor's decision to attend graduate school was not a surprise to me. Scientific work suits him.

In the USSR national team were hard working and honest gymnasts like Mikhail Voronin, Sergei Diomidov and Viktor Lisitsky. In Mexico City, Viktor was the youngest on the team, but no one thought of him as a youth. He even set an example with his serious attitude during training.

Klimenko's sports fate didn't happen easily. At the national championships, his path to the highest title was blocked by Voronin. Klimenko made a few errors and couldn't make it to the all-around podium, although he did win a bronze medal on parallel bars. In Ljubljana, where he was in fine form and could have become the world champion, he fell from rings on a trifling element. In the floor exercise final, he only had to complete his final tumbling pass well in order to win the gold. But suddenly, he messed up and fell to sixth place.

One might despair, but Viktor was not one who is faint of heart. Finally, the day of his triumph came. In 1971, Viktor Klimenko became European champion. He beat everyone, even himself! But his happiness didn't last long. The next day were the individual event finals. Viktor was injured at the work out and was carried off the platform. He came to the training hall in a cast, and we were amazed by his perseverance. For six months he couldn't train at full strength. Coaches thought he wouldn't be able to get in shape for the 1972 Olympics. But he managed!

His reward in Munich was the Olympic gold medal for his pommel horse exercise. Then, in 1973 Klimenko became the European champion for the second time, and in 1974 he became the USSR champion.

That's my friend Viktor Klimenko - a real fighter!