You can now read an
extract of Svetlana's autobiography, Somersault
on high heels.
Svetlana Khorkina was born
January, 1979 in Belgorod, Russia. She started gymnastics at the
age of 4
because her mother was worried she didn't eat enough and hoped that
give her an appetite.
Too tall for artistic gymnastics, she was told to change to rhythmic gymnastics. However, her coach, Boris Pilkin, helped her to create skills adapted to her long and thin body and she persevered in artistic gymnastics.
In 1992, she started her
international career with the Russian team and finished 5th
all around at the Moscow World Star. She introduced for the first time
skills that will be named after her, the Markelov release on uneven
bars and a
gainer flic-flac with a full twist on beam.
In 1993 she was
successful at the Russian Championships with 3 gold medals (all around,
beam and uneven bars), 1 silver medal (vault) and 1 bronze medal
In 1994, Svetlana started
senior gymnasts. Tall, elegant and expressive, she was already
the other gymnasts. She finished second at the World Championships and
the European Championships on uneven bars, an apparatus she would
ten years. She introduced a new vault that will be named after her, a
round-off, flic-flac with ½ turn on, ½ turn piked
back salto off.
In 1995, she won the all
the European Cup, French International, Moscow World Star, Russian Cup
Russian Championships. She had strong performances during the all round
World championships. However, she replaced her triple twist with a
on floor and finished only second. She became World champion on bars
first time with an incredible 9.900. She also introduced
on bars a skill named after her and an American gymnast, Amy Chow, a
Stalder with 1½
1996 was disappointing.
only 6th at all around of the European championships because of a fall
the vault. The team final at the Olympic Games was a nightmare.
the intense noise of the crowd, cheering for the USA team, the Russian
second. During the all around Svetlana could have reached the podium
fell on a new release she included on her bar routine and finished only
Qualified for only one final, the uneven bars, she managed to win the
medal thanks to that new release, a Shaposchnikova with ½
turn, that will then
be named after her.
In 1997, the changes in the code of point were expected to badly affect Svetlana. However, she managed to cope with the new rules and became for the first time the all around World Champion. She also presented a new jump on floor (1½ turn in horizontal plan to land in front support) that will be named after her.
In November 1997 she
sensation in the gymnastics world by posing naked for Russian Playboy.
In 1998, Svetlana
first time all around European Champion with a spectacular floor
routine to the
music from Pulp Fiction.
1999 was not Svetlana's year. At the World Championships she had not convinced the audience. First, she lost the gold during the team final by falling on her beam routine. Then during the all around she fell on vault and beam and finish only 12th. Lots thought that it was the end of her career but they were forgetting her strong personality and determination!
In 2000 Svetlana
events and became all around European champion for the second time. She
won gold on floor, uneven bars and with her team and much was expected
at the upcoming Olympics Games.
However the team
final at the
Olympic Games was frustrating. During the first rotation, Elena
on vault, as did Khorkina on her new release, a Ricna (a combination
Tkatchev), on uneven bars during the second rotation. The third
disastrous with the falls of Elena
Zamolodchikova and Ekaterina
beam. Russia still managed to
get a bitter
silver medal. During this competition, Svetlana presented a brand new
round-off flic-flac with ½ turn on, tucked forward
salto with 1½ twist off,
that will be named after her. This vault was extremely difficult
her height and had a start value of 10 in 2000.
Svetlana was the
all around. She could have won if she was given the chance to compete
However, when she performed on vault, the vault setting was 5 cm too
made Svetlana fall and loose her chance for a gold medal. During the
Svetlana complained to an Australian official about the vault but she
ignored. It was only after another complaint of an Australian gymnast,
during the warm-up of the
third rotation that
the vault setting was corrected. Svetlana did not know that when
uneven bars routine. Disturbed by her previous fall, she fell on the
as during the team final, the Ricna. Before she performed her beam
was officially informed that the vault was wrongly setting and she was
chance to redo her vault. She declined the opportunity as her fall on
bars had already
left her with no chance for a gold medal. Shortly after the end of the
around, the original Olympic champion, Andrea Raducan, was disqualified
of a positive drug test, making this competition even more infamous.
Svetlana said on TV that she did not remember what happened in Sydney,
this event was somewhere in a
video tape but not in her mind. She referred to Sydney like "a black
spot in my
Qualified for the four finals, Svetlana competed only for the floor and the uneven bars titles. Indeed, there were three Russian qualified on beam and vault while the rules allowed only two gymnasts per country to take part of each final. As Svetlana was the third Russian qualified on beam she did not compete. On vault, she thought that her team-mate Elena Zamolodchikova had more chances for a medal and thus did not compete to offer Elena her place in final. Thanks to that, Elena won gold on vault. Svetlana was more successful in the event final than during the all around with a silver medal on floor and a gold medal on her apparatus, the uneven bars.
2001, new code,
thought Svetlana would be still here. But her anger at losing the all
gold at the Olympic Games gave her enough motivation to continue. At
Championships she was the most successful gymnast over 440 participants
three gold medals (all around, uneven bars, vault), one silver medal
one bronze medal (floor). She presented that year the last skill named
her, a gainer 2½ twist dismount on beam.
In 2002 Svetlana
became the all
around European champion for the third time even though she fell on
thought she beat Verona van de Leur only thanks to favouritism
The world championships were more disastrous. Svetlana finished 7th on the uneven bars final with a 7.387 after two falls, on the Ricna and the Khorkina II.
time off in 2002 to play with a Russian theatre company. She also
doctorate at the physical culture faculty of the Belgorod State
In 2003 the 24-years-old Svetlana wrote a new page in gymnastics' history by becoming the first gymnast to win the all around at the World Championships three times. She also became a member of the political party of United Russia.
In 2004 Svetlana
the European all around because of a fall on the vault but managed to
on uneven bars for the 6th time.
At the Olympic
extremely thin. Russian level was not the same as in Sydney. Four years
and a silver
was disappointing, now a bronze medal on team final was a success.
At the all around
waiting for the gold medal she was robbed of four years ago but she
manage to achieve her golden dreams and finished second. This very day
it was the most beautiful day of her life but soon after that she
judges of underscoring her vault and of robbing her the gold medal.
bad sportsmanship by her detractors during her whole career, she was
criticized for these words.
Qualified only for
final, Svetlana fell on HER apparatus, on a very unexpected skill. Last
for the 'Queen of bars', a very sad farewell.
Svetlana retired from gymnastics after the Olympic Games. Since December 2004 she has been elected vice-president of the Russian artistic gymnastics federation. She was also elected as a member of the FIG Athlete Commission for the 2005-2008 Olympic cycle.
The 21 of July, 2005 she gave birth to a baby boy (some pictures of Svetlana and her son). Even though she is retired from gymnastics she is still in the news and we can see her regularly on newspapers and Russian TV (Circus with the Stars 2007, as guest in the Russian X factor 2007, etc.). On March 12, 2007, a sport complex named after her was opened in the Belgorod State University, Belgorod, Russia. Recently she was elected as a member of the Russian State Duma, the Russian parliament. She published her autobiography in russian, Somersault on high heels, on April 2008. She was supporting the russian team at the Olympic Games 2008, not as a gymnast but as a TV commentator for a russian channel.
Here is an extract of the biography of Svetlana made by the FIG:
"No one can
explain how the
164cm tall Khorkina can manage such fluent execution, of such an
routine. Her coach, Boris Pilkin dreams up incredible combinations for
perform on bars, so she is always changing her routine.
Why is she unique on the Bars? It seems that she "feels" the apparatus more than anybody in the world for all the times. She has a feel for continuous rhythm when performing on the bars and extremely elegant style of performance. Her performances on the bars seem fluent and effortless. Some people say she is "like a cat" on this apparatus. At the same time she performs skills of extreme difficulty, constantly changing her routine and adding new original elements. […] Her routine on bars is based on a very efficient combination of elements with turn around the longitudinal axes with flying elements. There no "spare" moments in her routine, each one of her swings ends with an element, which is not the case with the majority of the gymnasts."
Svetlana was a very talented gymnast who has left her mark on gymnastics, not only because of all the medals she won or all the original skills she has created, but also because she included in her routines something that has nearly disappeared from gymnastics: elegance. Her routines were not only tumbling, it was emotion, it was passion.
Svetlana will forever be 'The Queen' of gymnastics.
Many thanks to Ryan for his help to correct my english!
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