GYMN-L Digest - 1 Nov 1995
There are 8 messages totalling 517 lines in this issue.
Topics in this special issue:
2. planche and maltese and Jackie Bender
3. Mukhina article (repost)
4. Brandy Johnson
6. JAckie Bender
7. Trivia FOR PRIZES: #33 1988 Olympics (fwd)
8. Tickets for Pre-Olympics
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 22:05:05 -0600
Subject: Re: maltese/planche
>> only woman I've seen do a correct planche was Natalia Shaposhnikova, doing
>> her staddle planche on beam. That was beautiful. The whole routine was
>I would include Shushunova on the very short list of women who do correct
For those of you lucky enough to have seen Jackie Bender's (CAN) beam
routine, her planche is just as good as Shaposhnikova's if not slightly
better. Shaposhnikova's is better than Shushunova's IMHO. It's tough
(and not really fair) to pick the best, but of these three gymnasts
I'd put Bender & Shaposhnikova in a tie for first, then Shushu in 3rd.
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 23:16:53 -0500
Subject: Re: planche and maltese and Jackie Bender
Dory mentionned how beautiful Jackie Bender's planche was. She did
some amazing stregth work on beam, including some one-arm work (I think a
one-armed planche, or is it called a gut lever?) IG published some pictures
of Jackie's strengthwork several years ago (sometime in 1989 or 1990 perhaps?
I can't remember the exact dates, but I know it was just before Jackie
emerged onto the national scene). Does anyone remember what issue this was
in? It's too bad that Jackie never got to compete at worlds, because I think
she could have gotten some of those moves named after her. She had to retire
mid 1994 due to her continuing back problems. I hope you readers find this
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 23:25:20 -0500
Subject: Mukhina article (repost)
Here is the Mukhina article I posted some months ago and Lisa suggested I
might repost. I hope it answers some questions and is of interest to new
Here is the Mukhina article. It's from a 1988 issue of the
magazine "Ogonyok." Elena describes how the injury occurred, and since the
words came straight from her, this version is probably accurate. She doesn't
state what the element was, but it was something on floor, and a Thomas seems a
(Just a warning: the article is a bit hard to follow
because the author has a flair for the dramatic and also
jumps around in time. She mentions a fall Mukhina suffered from
beam, but I know that wasn't the fall that paralyzed her.)
Behind me is an enormous gym bathed in white light, as in an
operating room. Thousands of people are in the stands. Everyone is
looking at the podium, where a little girl with tousled bangs is
soaring through the air. The deathly white light of the floodlights
produces practically no shadows. Yet what is happening behind me is
shadows. Black and white images of people who have long gone their
separate ways to great and small destinies. Behind me is a
reinforced concrete wall, on the wall is pink flowered wallpaper,
and on the wallpaper is a large photograph of an enormous gym,
thousands of people in the stands, and a girl with tousled bangs is
flying, flying, and it seems that she will never be able to land.
She sits in front of me in a wheelchair, her hands resting on its
arms, her hair neatly combed, and she is even slightly made up. She
is Elena Mukhina.
Petrovsko-Razumovsky Way. A labyrinth of old Moscow
courtyards... And in the very heart of this labyrinth of countless
buildings, addresses written as fractions on the walls, puddles,
fences, and curves there is an apartment building. A castle, a
fortress, where in a two-room apartment a fate is imprisoned, a
fate which many would like to forget and not bring up again, having
stricken it from the official history of Soviet sports as if
nothing ever happened. The leaders of the industry that produces
champions have hidden from people not only the tragedy of a young
girl, but much more - the conscience and shame of our sports system,
supposedly "the most humane in the world."
...In the entire eight years that have passed since the
fateful injury suffered by Mukhina at the training camp in Minsk
only two weeks before the start of the Moscow Olympics, the
newspaper "Sovetsky Sport" has mentioned her twice - the first time
in a brief report that Elena Mukhina had suffered an injury and in
all probability would not be able to participate in the Olympic
competitions, and the second time when the president of the
International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, awarded
her an Olympic Order in 1982.
There are things that cannot be learned quickly. Sometimes it
takes a whole lifetime to grasp simple and clear truths. The eight
years that have passed since that tragic day that split Lena's life
into past and present, memories and immobility, youth and maturity
are enough time to draw a lesson from what happened. And today it
is finally time to talk about the inhumanity of top-level
competitive sports. This is not a pleasant topic. For long years we
have tried to sidestep it or, as a last resort, the officials in
charge of top-level sports have offhandedly uttered some edifying
words, thinking to themselves that there was no need to delve
deeply into it.
... Lena's grandmother, Anna Ivanovna, the girl's only and
most solid support in life, opened the door to me. On top of all
the misfortunes that have fallen upon her, Lena is an orphan. When
she was five years old there was a fire in the building and her
mother burned to death. Lena wasn't home at the time, but by the
time she came back everything had already been cleaned up and all
traces of the recent disaster had been virtually eradicated. Only her mother
was never there anymore.
Lena was sitting in her wheelchair. "Come in." Her voice was
quiet, so you had to listen attentively. It was femininely pleasant
She had refused for a long time before agreeing to our
meeting. She agreed only when we had established that the article
wouldn't be about her, but about sports.
"I was waiting for the fame to pass. I didn't need it anymore.
Letters? Yes, people wrote letters. But they were stupid for the
most part. They kept asking when I would return to competition. And
I wanted only one thing: to be left alone. Of course, those people
weren't to blame for the fact that they were being deceived - after
all, it was obvious right away that I would never return to a
normal life, let alone to sports. Yes, they were being deceived.
The fans had been trained to believe in athletes' heroism -
athletes with fractures return to the soccer field and those with
concussions return to the ice rink. Why? For what purpose? In order
to report that 'the task of the Homeland has been completed'?"
For what purpose?
"Two things are necessary in order for a country to become
fascinated with bullfighting," Hemingway wrote. "First, the bulls
have to be bred in that country, and second, its people have to be
interested in death."
Any comparison or parallel is relative, as everyone knows. But
still, these words from the book Death in the Afternoon disturbed
me and led my thoughts around in circles. Are the bulls athletes?
Is sport a bullfight? Death? What nonsense! Bred in that country...
But then in the impassable thicket of logical intricacies, the
parallel I was seeking crackled like a dry twig in my hands. "The
prestige of the nation is a flight to the moon and an Olympic
medal," said another American, US President John F. Kennedy. Aptly
said. And for our country, athletic successes and victories have
always meant somewhat more than even simply the prestige of the
nation. They embodied (and embody) the correctness of the political
path we have chosen, the advantages of the system, and they are
becoming a symbol of superiority. Hence the demand for victory - at
any price. As for risk, well... We've always placed a high value on
risk, and a human life was worth little in comparison with the
prestige of the nation; we've been taught to believe this since
"It happened on July 3, at a workout at the Minsk Palace of
Sport. My coach Mikhail Klimenko had gone away for a few days and
I was left with the coaches of the national team - virtually with
no one. But that's not the point. The injury was still inevitable.
Not necessarily that it had to happen on that day. I think they
just as easily might have carried me off the competition floor.
Because I just wasn't able to do that element. What good is it to
tumble into a foam pit two times, without really understanding
anything and without any coordination, and then immediately go up
onto the podium? Especially since I had broken my take-off leg at
a competition in 1979 and was doing the somersault badly. But the
race was on - the Olympics were coming up. The doctors? What about
the doctors... They aren't there to serve health, but to serve
sports. I asked, 'Don't discharge me from TsITO [Central Institute
of Traumatology and Orthopedics], they're dragging me from home to
workouts.' They removed the cast and I was walking crookedly. They
took an X-ray and it turned out that the bones had separated. I was
on the operating table right after lunch. My coach came the next
day and said that I wasn't conscientious and that I could train in
"I was stupid. I really wanted to justify the trust put in me
and be a heroine. While I was in the cast I gained weight. I had to
get rid of it. Everything was rushed again. I would come to TsSKA
[Central Army Sports Club] two hours early and rush around the gym
like a crazy person. The workout would just be beginning and I
didn't have a drop of strength left. I was so tired then, both
physically and psychologically."
When Lena fell for the last time her first thought was "Thank
God, I won't be going to the Olympics."
She fell on her chin, bending like a ruler that had been
pressed onto the table at one end and forcefully pulled upward at
the other. The ruler broke right at the base. Her cervical
vertebrae crunched. Lena felt no pain.
The pain came later, at the hospital, when the doctors kept
conferring and deliberating, while the time during which it was
still possible to at least attempt to restore or fix something, at
least to try, slipped by in long, thick moments, minutes, hours,
and days, flowing away like hot porridge. She very much wanted to
die. But they wouldn't let her.
"Who pushed you?" the doctor asked at the hospital.
From the newspapers: "Lena Mukhina was crying. The pain was
squeezing out the tears. Lena had struck the beam with such force
that everything went dark before her eyes. It was very painful to
stand on her leg. But she still had one last event - the floor
exercises. She made a decision and ordered herself, 'You must work!
You must give your all!' And she went out on the mat... Klimenko
was terribly pleased: 'I see her as a real fighter. She has
character, that she does!'"
"...Mikhail Klimenko came to women's gymnastics from men's and
has firmly mastered techniques that are more complex than the
women's. He is a believer in reason and logic. The way to achieve
boldness is through mental conviction, through the brain to the
"... Do you know when I get really scared? When I watch my
bars routine on television..."
If humanity is divided into children and grownups, and life
into childhood and maturity, then there are very many children and
a whole lot of childhood in life. Only we, immersed in our own
struggle and our own concerns, don't notice them... We have
arranged things in such a way as to have children interfere with us
as little as possible and to guess what we really are as rarely as
possible. These words were said a long time ago by a pedagogue who
won universal recognition. But the point is that these words have
not yet lost their relevance. On the contrary, when applied to
sports, they have acquired an ominous and ugly nuance. I'll permit
myself to offer the following allegory: a healthy and cheerful
person (nowadays it is a child with increasing frequency) gets into
the brightly painted, classy, and attractive car of top-level
competitive sports. The car whirls him around in circles and at
first it seems enjoyable, like a fun amusement park ride, but the
speed gets ever faster, the centrifugal force ever stronger, and
the pressure ever greater. Then, when the car finally stops, it
discharges an invalid, crippled both physically and
psychologically. Physically because you can't write off the
numerous dislocations, fractures, and concussions. Psychologically
because after having gotten used to living amid universal attention
and esteem, the person is not able to adjust to living at a lower
level and so after retiring he feels totally unneeded.
"If only we started sports at age 16-18, when a person can
consciously choose his path, but at age 9 or 10 we don't see
anything around us except sports, in which our interest is so
skillfully kindled. It seems to us that it's some kind of special
world. We don't yet know how narrow that three-dimensional
existence of the gym, home, and competitions is. And even though
athletes get to travel and see so much, they are terribly deprived
spiritually. Work, work, work. Nothing exists except work and
pressure, which constantly increase, and sometimes it seems that
that's it, you haven't got any more strength. But my coach once
told me, 'Until you break, no one will let you go.'
"I got so used to conquering myself - I don't want to, I'm
scared, mustn't eat, mustn't drink - that in the first years after
the injury, when all I could do was lie around, it seemed weird
that nothing was required of me. I so needed those feelings of
having some sort of control that I began to starve myself for no
reason at all. To torture myself. Out of habit..."
I often remember an episode from the life of our renowned
Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina. Remember when she
fell out of a lift during training and hit her head on the ice and
was taken to the hospital with a serious concussion, and then a few
days later she competed anyway and won, our courageous little woman
Rodnina. Quite a few newspaper articles were written then lauding
her courage, television films were made, and even books were
written. But I ask myself again and again, for what purpose was it
necessary to make her go out on the ice in a semi-conscious
condition? If she did it of her own free will, then who hypnotized
her with the idea that "Moscow is behind us," "there's no room to
retreat"? After all, it wasn't a war! Sport is a noble endeavor!
"There are such concepts as the honor of the club, the honor
of the team, the honor of the national squad, the honor of the
flag. They are words behind which the person isn't perceived. I'm
not condemning anyone or blaming anyone for what happened to me.
Not Klimenko or especially the national team coach at that time,
Shaniyazov. I feel sorry for Klimenko - he's a victim of the
system, a member of the clan of grownups who are 'doing their job.'
Shaniyazov I simply don't respect. And the others? I was injured
because everyone around me was observing neutrality and keeping
silent. After all, they saw that I wasn't ready to perform that
element. But they kept quiet. Nobody stopped a person who,
forgetting everything, was tearing forward - go, go, go!"
One cannot say that the current changes under way in our life
have not affected sports, for instance, artistic gymnastics. For
example, its officials have decided that from now on it will be
more pleasing to the eye and more womanly. In other words, on the
podium we won't see little girls with the bodies of kindergarteners, but...
This was stated most assuredly by the head of the gymnastics administration of
the USSR State Sports Committee, Leonid Arkayev, at a press conference
devoted to the opening of the latest Moscow News competition. With pride he
mentioned the names of female gymnasts whom we have seen performing
for several years now, but who, no offense meant to them, despite
their age still bear little resemblance to women. At the same press
conference he went on to say that in contemporary artistic
gymnastics today there is not a single athlete performing at the
world level who has not been injured. True, he added that this was
not for the press (what a concept: not for the press at a press
conference!) We nodded our heads obediently. But I still allowed
myself to cite this revelation because, first of all, that's the
nature of the times, and second, because I'm sure that it won't
reflect on Arkayev's career in any way. Who is interested in
injuries when our school of gymnastics is in the vanguard of world
sports? There's no stopping a steamroller, as they say.
The picky reader may object that in the West and abroad,
athletes are subjected to the same conditions, they also have to
take risks and sacrifice their health. Yes, I am forced to agree.
But there is a small "but." Over there the athletes do it for the
sake of incredible amounts of money, for a secure future for
themselves and their families. Here we have been duping people for
so long with the false notion that our sports are of an amateur
nature that it was totally incomprehensible - why do they do it? So
that the State Sports Committee functionaries could give proud
I certainly do not mean to blame sports - a beautiful and
noble invention of mankind - for all sins. Moreover, one of the
main achievements of the new socioeconomic system was sports,
sports of a mass nature, accessible to one and all. But gradually,
like, incidentally, many other areas of our life, sports have moved
from the everyday sphere to May Day parade grounds and the frames
of cheery, uplifting movies. A false mass nature has been
established. Inflated figures for the number of recreational
athletes, a dead national fitness program which people are trying
in vain to revive, run-down stadiums, a lack of any kind of
athletic wear. And against this background are the brilliant
victories, raised flags, and tears in the eyes of the victors.
"To the mentors who have preserved our youth..." Sports are
the domain of the young. But behind them are fully grown people
playing fully grown-up games. They have to change their attitude
toward sports. Or they have to be changed, i.e., replaced. For the
fate of Elena Mukhina is only the tip of an enormous iceberg of
crippled fates. Let's think about this.
My comments on reading this again. Oksana Polonskaya and Joan Ryan seem to
have gone to the same school of journalism: find someone who has had a serious
injury or disappointment and is bitter, interview only that person, and imply
that all other athletes agree. What happened to Mukhina was indeed tragic, but
I think she is also more bitter than other people who suffered similar
injuries. (I've gotten that impression from other articles about her too.)
Also, at the time this article was written (1988), journalists in the USSR were
just beginning to be allowed to write anything critical, and some got carried
away. I have a hunch that if this article were written today, the tone would be
different. I certainly don't doubt that training for top-level gymnasts in the
USSR was tough, but probably no worse than in many other countries. My thinking
is that if it were THAT brutal, Boginskaya would not have decided to make a
comeback, Chusovitina and Galiyeva would have retired long ago, and former
competitive gymnasts would not still be doing exhibitions (Olga Bicherova, for
example) or choosing coaching as their careers, etc.
On a side note, I know this has been mentioned before, but I thought I'd
clarify it again. The injury that Julissa Gomez suffered did NOT cause her
death. It DID paralyze her, but she was conscious and lucid afterward. But
then, due to equipment failure at the hospital, she was deprived of oxygen for
several minutes - long enough to cause brain damage and put her into a coma. It
was the accident at the hospital, not at the gym competition, that was
ultimately the cause of her death. Joan Ryan glosses over this in "The Book"
and makes it seem like gymnastics was totally to blame. This is just a plain
distortion of the facts.
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 23:30:50 EST
Subject: Brandy Johnson
Brandy Johnson was training at Broadway Gymnastics in Winter Springs,
Florida in her attempt to make '96 Olympics. She trained there
for almost a year and was looking great before she retired again
about 6 months ago.
She was being coached by Scott Johnson ('84, '88 Olympics),
Stephanie Lenzini (Broadway owner) and Jason Parker (young, talented,
up and coming coach).
She trained with Lanna Appisuhk ('92 Junior National champ and
youngest ever Junior national champ) who just represented Thailand at
World Championships in Sabae.
She has been married for a couple of years now to a professional
skier and stuntman.
She has been working as a stuntwoman in tv and movies.
She did coach for a while before she started training again - but has
not gone back to coaching yet.
She was the original choice for the movie SPITFIRE which ended up
starring Kristi Phillips. She did not feel that the movie was high
enough quality and didn't think the character was appropriate.
She has considered joining Cirque de soliel (sp?) - but would have to
move - so I don't think it will happen.
I wish her luck in what ever she decides to do.
"WHEN IN DOUBT – BARANI OUT"
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 00:29:40 -0500
Has anyone seen the movie Spitfire? I am a huge fan of Kristie
Phillips and would love to see it, regardless of the calibre. Does she do her
own gymnastics in it? Is it out on video? Did it ever play in theatres? I
would love to hear from someone who has seen it and could give me some more
info. Thank you.
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 07:46:03 -0500
Subject: Re: JAckie Bender
The photos of Jackie in IG displaying her flexability are in the Nov. 88
issue on page 37.
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 11:33:41 CST
Subject: Trivia FOR PRIZES: #33 1988 Olympics (fwd)
>OK, Mara. Here it goes. Let me know how I do. (This one was tough!)
> 1. This person is one of the few females to ever perform a double twisting
> double back on FX. However, the '88 Olympics marked the only time she ever
> attempted the skill in competition.
Daniela Silivas - Romania.
> 2. Who was the only female gymnast to perform a double twisting Yurchenko
> during the *all-around* competition at the '88 Olympics?
Natalia Lacshenova - USSR
> 3. Which gymnast was forced to drop out of the all-around after sustaining a
> fractured lower fibula on floor?
Phillipe Chartrand - Canada
> 4. The '88 Olympics marked a significant change in the rules for
> women's floor exercise. What was it?
Back to back tumbling was upgraded in the Code of Points (I'm guessing :))
> 5. What individual athlete refused to perform optionals during her
> session because of religious concerns, only to see her hopes fulfilled when
> she was allowed to perform optionals with another team instead? (1/2 point)
> Which team? (1/2 point)
Revital Sharon - Isreal. Hungary allowed her to compete with them.
> 6. If the new life rule had been in effect during 1988, which American would
> have won a medal in event finals and what apparatus/color would the medal
> have been?
Brandy Johnson would have won the vaulting silver.
> 7. One team lost the bronze medal as a result of a .5 deduction for having a
> "coach" on the podium while an athlete was competing.
> (You must answer all of the following correctly to get credit)
> a. Which country lost the medal?
> b. Which country gained the medal?
> c. Who was the "coach" on the podium ?
Team alternate, Rhonda Faehn
> d. Who was the athlete competing and what event was she competing on ?
Kelly Garrison Steves was competing on uneven bars
> 8. This gymnast was named captain of his country's Olympic gym team and was
> then unable to even go to Seoul at all because of injury.
Yuri Korolev - USSR
> 9. How many first place ties were there during men's event finals? Name
> Three... pommel horse, rings, and high bar.
> 10. How many bronze medals did Romanians win?
Three - w vault, w beam, and m high bar.
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 17:33:27 -0600
Subject: Tickets for Pre-Olympics
Someone emailed me privately about Pre-Olympic Ticket info. I found out the
number to call. It is Atlanta Sports '95: (404) 546-4095. I believe the tickets
are $15. each.
Btw: Rhonda at IBM SWEARS that she has "asked and asked" about who will be
there so she can send it out via the homepage. Still, no word from ACOG about
who to put down.
P.S. Any other request, lets use private email.
End of GYMN-L Digest - 1 Nov 1995 to 2 Nov 1995 - Special issue