October 25, 1987. Close to midnight on Friday another set of medals - for the women's team competition - at Rotterdam's Ahoy Palace. After a tough contest between the teams from Romania and the USSR, the title of world champion was again won by the Romanian gymnasts, eight years after their first victory. They were only 0.45 ahead of our girls. In third place was the GDR team.
However, this isn't news. Millions of people were watching Friday's performances on TV. But the amazing beauty and rare passions of the competition still excites the imagination of those who saw it, and who were touched by high-level artistic gymnastics. Let us reconstruct the events in our memory, scroll through them again - without haste, without loss of detail.
The ninth subdivision was set for 7:30 PM. It was the final subdivision, and all the "main" rivals would compete. The 17,000 seat "Ahoy" stadium was already overflowing - there were no available seats. But an hour earlier the police had put up double pickets, and in time people were trying to sneak into the Ahoy stadium. I snuck into the press box, along with Viktor Klimenko, the Olympic champion. He judged the men's performances yesterday, and had today off. We agreed as follows: I'll take photos and he will give commentary. The result was a two-person report.
When the gymnasts came to the platform it seemed like a powerful bomb had exploded in the arena. The stands groaned. Our leaders began on vault, and the Romanians on uneven bars. Before the judge's bell pierced the arena, once again we looked at the standings. After the compulsories, we had a lead of 0.1 points. A lot or a little?
Klimenko: Oh, if only we knew the answer to that question! Think. the judges deduct 0.5 points for a fall from an apparatus. In such a comparison, 0.1 is nothing. But when you consider the teams are, in general, equal, a hundredth can solve everything. The winner will be the one who does not falter, whose composition will be more harmonious. Yes, yes, harmonious. After all, modern gymnastics isn't just a single trick. Even a triple somersault is just one detail of a routine's combinations. And the unity of the components, the ability to express them, is still prized.
The audience in the stands were like a mob of tourists in Rotterdam's port. Simultaneously, they turned their heads to the left, then to the right - hopping from the vault to the uneven bars and back. The scores were almost the same. Svetlana Baitova, 9.8. Eugenia Golea, 9.8. And then there was a nice vault and accurate landing by Oksana Omelyanchik, and 9.95 flashed on the scoreboard. The audience was still catching their breath, when a response on the uneven bars immediately followed. The judges gave the highest score to Daniela Silivas, the leader in the standings.
Klimenko: A comprehensive picture of the balance of forces is available only when the teams changed events. And, in fact, different apparatus yields different results. For example, the beam is more treacherous in optionals than in compulsories. Comparison: the Romanians scored 48.975 in compulsory beam and only 48.8 in optional beam. So it's difficult to make a comparison. And yet.... Our routines are harder, richer, but there are errors, especially on dismounts. The Romanians' routines are a bit easier and not as risky, and their focus is on the clarity of execution. A lot depends on the judges' point of view. Shushunova, for example, showed a complicated vault, but the judges awarded her only 9.975, and I think it's unfair. Silivas' bar routine was pretty simple, but she received a higher score. However, she works exceptionally cleanly. I think Silivas will maintain the lead if, of course, she doesn't fall.
Silivas fell on beam. It was so unexpected, so improbable, that a deathly silence hung in the air. Everyone knows that Silivas never falls. She left the dais shocked, and even from our seats we could see her shoulders shake. When the scoreboard flashed 9.575, she buried her face in her jacket. It was clear that she no longer held the lead. Now all attention went to Shushunova on uneven bars.
Klimenko: Shushunova is an experienced competition fighter. She is a leader by nature. But a leader needs a good team. I remember the unique Vera Caslavska. At the 1966 world championships, the Czech team, which had been average, suddenly won gold medals. In fact, the credit for this goes to Caslavska. Shushunova also is endowed with the gift to lead others. On the bars she showed an unusually complicated combination: a Tkachev with 360-degree pirouette, and a full-twisting double somersault dismount. Personally, I would give her the highest score. But the judges again scored her at 9.975. However, this score was enough to put her into the lead. Notice that Dobre scores a 10 on beam and moves into second place. Silivas is now third. Our team is ahead by 0.75 points. But we are now going to beam, while Romania will be on the floor. Remember that I said that you can't compare scores on these 2 events?
I remember that Camelia Voinea received a 10 for her floor routine. Until the beam, we were doing well. Tatiana Tuzhikova fell, and Omelyanchik made an error. Only Shushunova remained herself - 9.975 again. But very soon it turns out that her score doesn't save the situation. The scoreboard, installed near the floor podium, doesn't stop displaying a 10. After Voinea, Dobre and Silivas also scored 10s. The Romanian team arranges itself in a little bunch around the platform, waving their jackets, flowers appearing from somewhere, cameras clicking. Isn't it a little early?
Klimenko: Now we see that Dobre is in first, and I'm afraid that's how it will end. Silivas is challenging Shushunova for second place. As a result, the Romanian girls are the leaders after this rotation, and we now must regain 0.2 points. Is it possible? In principle, yes. Because we are ending on floor. But we need to perform at least as well as our competitiors. Only then will we have a chance. I have already spoken about harmony. Yes, each routine on the floor is primarily a single thought. If our girls are able to convey this idea with sufficient accuracy and in their movements and feelings, they will still be able to make up the loss.
Nerves on the podium and in the stands were stretched to the limit. The Dutch cameraman turned on the camera but she suddenly turned it off and pushed it along the racetrack that surrounded the platform. I don't know whether she managed to capture Golea's vault? The entire Romanian delegation stared at the scoreboard, and then, as if teasing, it went dark. Then, it reluctantly swung around and lit up with a 10 for Golea. At the same time, Omelyanchik was on the floor, and it was a moment of the highest tension. Only Omelyanchik, the master of improvisation, could still somehow equalize the situation. But luck wasn't there - she had a break down in the middle of her routine. It's all over. We can't beat the Romanians. Again, Dobre scored a 10. However, Shushunova retained second place, ahead of Silivas.
Klimenko: When was the last time I saw anything like this? I don't remember a single instance... Gymnastics is adorned with such battles. Today, the Romanians were luckier. They were better liked by the audience and judges. They are a worthy team. Worthy of their victory. Our girls now need to recoup. They will have a chance on Saturday night during the battle for the all-around title.
Outside the Ahoy a huge banner reading "Grand finale: USSR-Romania" was hung this morning. But now, in the late evening, it was quite appropriate. The grand finale isn't finished yet.
Women, compulsory and optional sum: 1. A. Dobre (ROM), 79.55; 2. E. Shushunova (URS), 79.475; 3. D. Silivas (ROM), 79.45; 4. S. Baitova (URS), 79.025; 5. E. Szabo (ROM), 78.95; 6-7. O. Omelyanchik (URS) and C. Voinea (ROM), 78.75; 8. E. Gurova (URS), 78.475; ... 10. S. Boginskaya (URS), 78.35 ... 15. T. Tuzhikova (URS), 77.9.
Team results: 1. ROM 395.4; 2. URS 394.95; 3. GDR 389.6; 4. CHN 386.85; 5. BUL 386.725; 6. USA 383.4.