Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Overlooked and underrated Soviet greats

As we all know, the Soviets had an unbelievable depth of talent in the 1980's and early 1990's. Inevitably, plenty were overlooked and never made it to a major international competition and even those that did failed to make an impact. Talent was not a factor- these gymnasts have incredible form, artistry, skill and often extremely high difficulty. Silly mistakes and inconsistency kept them out of the medals and off the radar internationally. Politics also meant that not all received the chance to shine.

Tatiana Lysenko

Tatiana DID make it to several international competitions and she did medal at the 1992 Olympics. Unfortunately silly mistakes kept her from fully realising her potential. She had the potential to take the all-around, and didn't even medal. Her difficulty was astounding, particularly vault where she performed a DTY when everyone else was only doing FTY's. Because they had the same difficulty, Tatian's low landing failed to impress and she was underscored. She could have scored much higher on all of her apparatus if she had kept her difficulty down in favour of stuck landings, but she kept at it. Respect! She was great on all four, even bars which she is not particularly known for. She is certainly known, but definitely underappreciated.

Tatiana Groshkova

Tatiana Groshkova was never chosen to be a part of a major team because of her inconsistency. When she hit, it was incredible. Her beam routine at the 1989 Chuinchi cup is my favourite of all time. Not only was it incredibly difficult with perfect form, it also contained original moves and amazing flexibility moves such as the scale above. Her floor was a work of art, beautiful choreography and dance. The tumbling was not the prettiest but that double full-in has to be seen to believed.

Aleftina Priakhina

Aleftina made it to a Euros, so she was doing better than many of the fantastic unknown Soviets at this time. She had incredible difficulty and was the first to compete a standing full twist on beam AND a double-double on floor, but never made it to a worlds or olympics so neither bear her name. Her beam and bars mount were both very daring, and more associated with Olessia Dudnik. Although her skills and technique were astounding, her form and artistry paled in comparison to others and just like Groshkova, she was lost in the pool of talent.

Irina Baraksanova

Irina was a victim not so much  of inconsistency but of politics. Along with Mostepanova and others who had already had a raw deal over USSR boycotting the 1984 Olympics, Irina was pulled from the 1985 Worlds all-around to make way for the big names of Elena Shushunova and Oksana Omelianchik. Her fabulous floor alone, the most balletic I have ever seen and with such gorgeous lines and expression, means she deserves recognition but her other routines are worth a look too, especially her magnificent beam.

I might make a part two of this at a later date, but it is very difficult to find information on some. Some of the gymnasts above might as well have been world-famous compared to some competely unknown but brilliant Soviets!


  1. Just watched a video of Aleftina Priakhina 1986 on beam and floor she was SO talented!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi Jenni! Yes, so ahead of her time. She didn't have the flair of her teammates and wasn't stellar all-around, slightly sloppy- but wow was she amazing. One of my favourites!

  2. I agree regarding Baraksanova and I think politics affected Pryakhina. It seemed that wherever possible , Russians took priority. And if there were not enough /any Russians up to scratch at a particular time the next port of call would be Ukrainians or Belarussians. They seemed to only to use Central Asians when really stuck. I think Baraksanova and Priyakhina came from the wrong end of the political fence.