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The Biggest Workforce That By no means Went to the Olympics (Half II) – An Previous College Gymnastics Weblog


In Half I of those sequence, I defined the historic significance of the 1983 Soviets and the way uncommon it’s that not one member of this workforce went to the Olympics. Beneath is an outline of every of the six members who comprised the 1983 Soviets.

Natalia Yurchenko

Natalia Yurchenko

The oldest member of the 1983 Soviets, this was really Natalia Yurchenko’s debut in Group-1 degree competitors. Yurchenko first rose to prominence within the Soviet nationwide program as early as 1978 when she was invited to coach alongside the senior members of the Soviet nationwide workforce. In 1979 Natalia was an alternate for the World Championships that 12 months. Yurchenko was anticipated to compete for one of many final spots on the 1980 Olympic workforce earlier than a devastating harm knocked her out of competition in early 1980. The lingering results of which took Yurchenko two years to totally get better from.

Natalia Yurchenko returned to competitors in 1982 the place she was All-Round co-Champion of the World Cup that 12 months. After successful the All-Round on the 1983 World Championships, Yurchenko was genuinely on an unprecedented scorching streak and had even certified to Occasion Finals on all 4 apparatuses. However an harm on her first occasion knocked Yurchenko out of the competitors and marked the top of Yurchenko’s reign because the top-ranked WAG of the Soviet program.

In later years Yurchenko would discover herself being eclipsed by youthful teammates. The ultimate years of her profession would even be outlined by a string of expensive psychological errors that may stop Yurchenko from successful medals any time she seemed to be in competition for a podium end. Regardless of being the oldest member of the 1983 Soviets, Yurchenko was the final member of the 1983 workforce to seem in one of many 4 most prestigious competitions of the period, which occurred on the 1986 World Cup.

Natalia Yurchenko (middle) taking directions from her coach. Natalia Shaposhnikova is third from the left.

Natalia’s standing as an All-Round champion in addition to her innovation on vault made Yurchenko one of the vital well-known gymnasts amongst gymnastics followers. Yurchenko turned the primary non-Olympian to ever be inducted into the Corridor of Fame on the ladies’s aspect of the game (WAG or ladies’s creative gymnastics), in addition to the one gymnast this was ever performed for previous to 2021. No different member of the 1983 Soviets has been inducted into the Corridor of Fame.

Notice: I did a full profession recap of Natalia Yurchenko’s profession on Patreon which could be discovered right here. It’s a three hour recording recapping the life and profession of Natalia Yurchenko.

Natalia Ilienko

Natalia Ilienko

Natalia Ilienko crashed onto the scene as a 1st-year senior in 1981 and had greater than sufficient expertise to make a reputation for herself. On the 1981 European Championships she completed 4th within the All-Round (AA) and 4th on bars. However her biggest accomplishment was successful a silver medal on beam. This explicit element could be vital to recollect in a while.

On the 1981 World Championships Natalia Ilienko obtained off to a robust begin. On Day #1 of qualifying Ilienko was main all the subject within the All-Round standings, she additionally had the very best qualifying rating on stability beam by a big margin and was within the qualifying lead on flooring train as properly. By this level within the competitors, Natalia Ilienko was in a viable place to win 4 gold medals. One within the workforce competitors, one within the All-Round and a pair on beam/flooring. However on Day #2 of qualifying catastrophe struck.

Ilienko fell on the uneven bars on the second day of qualifying. If she had fallen on only one occasion, her All-Round prospects might have been salvageable. However Ilienko additionally fell on beam. This ruined any hope Ilienko had of advancing to All-Round Finals, however it additionally meant one thing else. Beam was the occasion Ilienko was a runaway medal favourite on. There was even a risk she would beat out Maxi Gnauck for the gold medal.

However a mistake on beam meant the younger Ilienko had misplaced the possibility to even contend for 2 medals she was within the lead for. As Ilienko walked off the rostrum following her disastrous beam routine, she didn’t seem indignant or unhappy. Regardless of Ilienko’s younger age she maintained full composure and the one indication that something was fallacious was measured by how shortly Ilienko bolted from the world. Nobody close to her even tried to look in Ilienko’s course as Natalia made it clear she merely wished to be left alone.

Natalia Ilienko in 1980

Natalia Ilienko was down on two of her three occasions, however one nonetheless remained. Natalia Ilienko took the gold medal on flooring in one of many biggest examples of a robust rebound in gymnastics historical past. The 1981 gold medal on flooring is a very particular stat line because it ensured Natalia Ilienko didn’t stroll away from the 1981 World Championships with none medals in any respect within the 5 particular person occasions. However it additionally displays simply how gifted Natalia Ilienko was and suggests she actually might have gained 4 gold medals at these 1981 World Championships if not for a pair of expensive errors.

Ilienko would characterize the Soviets on the 1982 World Cup, the 1983 World Championships, and the 1984 Alternate Olympics. She was the textbook instance of a supporting forged member of the lineup who appeared in all of the vital competitions and was a lift to the workforce rating, however wasn’t round a lot when particular person medals have been contested. In every of those years from 1982-1984, Ilienko would solely present additional and additional regression earlier than abruptly disappearing from the scene altogether following the 1984 Olympic boycott.

Between the 1983 and 1984 USSR lineups which fielded eight completely different Soviet gymnasts, Ilienko is certainly one of two Soviet WAGs who by no means competed previous the 1984 boycott. Whereas her profession could appear brief at first look, Natalia Ilienko’s profession was really reasonably lengthy contemplating she competed in a World Championships held within the first 12 months of an Olympic quad, and stayed round lengthy sufficient to make the subsequent Olympic workforce. Solely Elena Shushunova and Svetlana Boginskaya can say the identical amongst Soviet gymnasts.

Olga Bicherova (left) holding the Chunichi Cup

Olga Bicherova

Of the six members of the 1983 Soviets, two of them didn’t make the 1984 Olympic workforce and even when there hadn’t been a boycott, they nonetheless wouldn’t be Olympians. The primary of which is Olga Bicherova. She was from the identical technology as Natalia Ilienko. Whereas coming into the 1981 season it appeared Natalia Ilienko was the USSR’s greatest probability for a younger breakout star, it ended up being Olga Bicherova who gained the All-Round on the 1981 World Championships.

Olga Bicherova would win the AA on the World Championships, World Cup, and even the European Championships. This feat was solely ever achieved by Ludmilla Turischeva and Elena Shushunova. Olga Bicherova even gained these AA titles consecutively, which means she went three years whereas being undefeated in main All-Round competitors. Bicherova’s dominance was so staggering, she really gained extra particular person medals (9) than each Yurchenko (5) and Olga Mostepanova (3) gained mixed within the 4 main competitions of the period.

However harm issues which first began appearing in the course of 1983 would sluggish Bicherova down. Culminating with the 1983 World Championships being the final time Bicherova ever obtained a serious project from Soviet coaches. Despite the fact that Yurchenko in 1986 was the final of the 1983 Soviets to ever obtain a serious project in a “Large 4” competitors (World Championships, Olympics, World Cup, and European Championships), Olga Bicherova continued competing in televised competitions all the way in which till 1988. This made Bicherova the final of the 1983 Soviets to retire.

Albina Shushova

Albina Shishova

Albina Shishova is the instance of a gymnast whose expertise and popularity for stated expertise isn’t mirrored in her outcomes. Shishova is the one member of the 1983 Soviets who by no means appeared in an All-Round or Occasion Finals on the World Championships degree. Nonetheless, Albina was technically eligible for 1983 beam finals as a last-minute harm alternative for Yurchenko, however Soviet officers didn’t substitute her in.

On the peak of her profession Shishova was one of the vital fashionable and revered gymnasts inside the Soviet program, with many anticipating her to be a medal risk on the 1983 World Championships. This was as a result of Albina’s membership to one of the vital prestigious gyms within the Soviet program and descriptions of all the abilities she was coaching. On the 1983 European Championships Shishova tied Ecaterina Szabo for bronze within the All-Round. That individual stat line being proof that her popularity as a first-rate All-Arounder was greater than justified.

However for numerous causes, Shishova simply wasn’t the identical medal risk on the 1983 World Championships later within the 12 months. However even making the 1983 World Championships workforce was spectacular in its personal proper. Shishova was coaching companions with Natalia Yurchenko and for political causes, it was uncommon for the Soviet program to award two spots on one workforce to the identical coach. For Shishova to make the 1983 workforce, she needed to show she was considerably higher than any various choice, which clearly was the case.

However Shishova’s second within the limelight was exceptionally brief. After failing to make the 1984 Olympic workforce, Shishova disappeared from competitors studies and so far as I’m conscious, by no means resurfaced in any notable competitors. Though Albina does seem in a 1987 documentary profiling Natalia Yurchenko and her former fitness center. Albina Shishova joins Olga Bicherova as certainly one of two members of the 1983 Soviets who was not introduced again for the 1984 Olympic workforce.

Tatiana Frolova

Tatiana Frolova

Tatiana Frolova was very a lot the alternative of Albina Shishova. There are a variety of nice issues to say about Frolova and her profession was a lot better than her outcomes would in any other case point out. Whereas Shishova has one thing of a cult following and her identify is continuously talked about amongst aficionados of Nineteen Eighties and/or Soviet WAG, Tatiana Frolova doesn’t get the identical therapy. No less than to not the identical extent that Albina enjoys.

Tatiana Frolova was a core member of the Soviet program for practically a complete Olympic quad. She was an alternate on the 1981 World Championships workforce. Frolova was additionally a member of the boycott 1984 Olympic workforce. In 1982 she was the Soviet consultant on the American Cup, an project the Soviets usually solely gave to those that they felt have been prone to be certainly one of their prime gymnasts in future competitors. As for 1983, it was Tatiana Frolova who took the #3 qualifying spot in All-Round Finals, knocking defending AA Champion Olga Bicherova out of AA Finals solely.

Frolova would end fifth in AA Finals and narrowly missed out a medal with a 4th place end on the uneven bars. However what makes Tatiana Frolova’s efficiency significantly noteworthy was what she did on beam. Tatiana Frolova’s greatest occasion was the uneven bars. She was solely the #4 ranked Soviet on beam and wasn’t anticipated to be in beam finals. However on the final second, and regardless of having a large drawback as a result of carry-over scoring, the Soviets chosen Frolova to be Natalia Yurchenko’s harm alternative for 1983 beam finals.

Frolova didn’t win a medal, however a fifth place end in such uncommon circumstances was an incredible illustration of Tatiana’s total expertise. With little superior warning, no prior preparation, on an equipment that wasn’t her strongest occasion, and with a low qualifying rating in an period the place carry-over scoring punished low ranked qualifiers, Frolova nonetheless managed to tug off a fifth place end.

Frolova by no means gained a medal in a person occasion, however she does have three top-5 finishes to her identify. In an period with so many massive names, with the know-how of the day solely giving followers footage of the headliners whereas supporting forged members like Tatiana Frolova fell under the radar, Tatiana was a gymnast who by no means obtained the right recognition she deserved. Tatiana Frolvoa is usually incorrectly confused with Natalia Frolova, a gymnast she shares no household relation with. If you happen to have been to ask me who’re essentially the most undervalued/underrecognized members of the Soviet WAG program from 1952-1992, I’d put Tatiana Frolova in direction of the very prime of the record.

Olga Mostepanova

Olga Mostepanova

For many readers, Olga Mostepanova is the identify mostly related to the 1984 boycott. She is broadly thought of to be the athlete who would have gained the All-Round title on the 1984 Olympics. Mostepanova is held in such excessive regard that gymnastics followers don’t simply speculate as as to whether she would have gained in 1984, however really feel it’s a on condition that Olga Mostepanova would have achieved star energy similar to Nadia Comaneci and Olga Korbut.

Olga Mostepanova is successfully the poster little one of the 1984 boycott and all of the injustice that occurred to the Soviet WAGs. Had Mostepanova attended the 1984 Olympics she seemingly would have joined Yurchenko and Bicherova because the third member of the workforce who would win an All-Round title in some unspecified time in the future of their careers. This might have made the 1983 Soviets one of the vital historic lineups in WAG historical past {that a} single workforce might subject three AA Champions who all gained their AA titles in the exact same quad. However due to an Olympic boycott, this stat by no means occurred.

Olga Mostepanova has three gold medals and two silver medals on the World Championships, 4 of which got here on the 1983 World Championships. The 1983 season isn’t even thought of one of the best 12 months of Mostepanova’s profession, and but this one competitors single-handedly propels her in direction of the very prime of the record of essentially the most profitable gymnasts in World Championships historical past to by no means seem within the Olympics. In World Championships historical past the 1983 Soviets account for six medals gained in a person occasion, half of these medals belong to Olga Mostepanova.

Then there was 1984 the place Olga Mostepanova gained 5 gold medals on the Alternate Olympics. This occurring at a contest that fielded a stronger lineup of gymnasts than the “actual” Olympics that 12 months. However the 5 gold medals Mostepanova gained on the 1984 Olympics is usually overshadowed by her staggering twelves Good-10s and the extremely coveted “Good-40” the place Mostepanova scored a Good 10 on all 4 occasions throughout All-Round Finals on the Different Olympics. It will be her quite a few Good 10s in 1984 that may immortalize Mostepanova as a gymnastics legend.

Mostepanova has the bizarre distinction of by no means falling under 2nd place whenever she competed in a Workforce Finals, All-Round Finals, or Equipment Finals in major-level competitors.

Hyperlink to Half I of this sequence.

(From L to R) Olga Bicherova, Olga Mostepanova, Tatiana Frolova, Albina Shishova, Natalia Ilienko, and Natalia Yurchenko

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