1974 WAG World Championships

1974: The Women’s All-Around Competition at the World Championships

In 1974, Ludmilla Tourischeva won her second-straight all-around title at the World Championships and proved what some, including head coach Larisa Latynina, believed to be true: Tourischeva would always trump Korbut in the all-around.

One month before the World Championships, the Soviet magazine Yunost published an article about Tourischeva and Korbut. Here’s an excerpt:

“Can Korbut finally win against Tourischeva?” they ask.

My answer is: “No, she can’t.”

On one apparatus – sure she can. On two. On three. But not in the big all-around with twelve apparatus (three times four), where the main title of the all-around champion is at stake.

Latynina once put it well into words: “Korbut will surprise, but Tourischeva will win.”

You have to be Tourischeva — steel in work, deaf to the temptations of the world, unquestioningly submissive to her own will as well as her coach’s. Tourischeva is a stayer, she possesses an ideally patient and stubborn all-around character.

And Olya Korbut is a person-explosion, a person of moods. Imagine a sprinter running ten thousand meters — this is Korbut in the all-around.

Stanislav Tokarev, Yunost, September, No. 9, 1974

That said, Korbut, among others, felt that the judges had crowned Tourischeva as the champion even before the competition in Varna began.

Interestingly, the highest score in the competition did not go to either Tourischeva or Korbut. Instead, it went to Annelore Zinke, who scored a 9.95 on bars. 

Note: Since there were four judges for each event with the high and low scores being dropped, this meant that two judges gave Zinke a 10.0 for her routine. One 10.0 was dropped, and her counting scores were a 9.90 and a 10.0 for a 9.95 average.

Here’s what happened on Friday, October 25 during the women’s all-around final.

February 1-22, 1974. Rostov-On-Don, USSR. Three-time Olympic champion, multiple world and European champion, Soviet gymnast Lyudmilla Tourischeva. The exact date of the photograph is unknown.
Olga Korbut taking part in the World Gymnastic Championships in Varna, Bulgaria. Original Publication: People Disc – HG0074 (Photo by D Deynov/Getty Images)

Reminder: This was the first World Championships with an all-around final. (The Munich Olympics were the first Olympic Games to include an all-around final.)

Reminder #2: In 1973, the Women’s Technical Committee tried to ban Korbut’s skills.


1. Tourischeva
Qual: 139.1509.809.759.909.9039.35
2. Korbut
Qual: 238.9009.709.809.809.8539.15
3. Hellmann
Qual: 338.2259.509.709.609.6538.45
4. Saadi
Qual: 437.8759.409.559.559.8038.30
5. Sikharulidze
Qual: 537.8509.509.409.459.8538.20
6. Zinke
Qual: 737.7259.459.909.509.6038.45
7. Dronova
Qual: 637.7759.409.409.509.7038.00
8. Goreac
Qual: 837.6259.709.709.409.6038.40
9. Schmeißer
Qual: 1137.4759.309.709.059.5037.55
10. Medveczky
Qual: 937.5259.459.508.959.5537.45
11. Röhrich
Qual: 1437.3009.509.659.359.4037.90
12. Grigoraş
Qual: 12T37.3259.609.609.359.6038.15
13. Gerisch
Qual: 16T37.0259.309.359.509.3037.45
14T. Abel
Qual: 16T37.0259.309.509.259.5037.55
14T. Knopová
Qual: 19T36.7259.358.959.309.4537.05
16T. Dobre
Qual: 30T36.3009.509.208.809.5037.00
16T. Nagy
Qual: 1836.9509.509.309.059.3037.15
18. Rice-Moore
Qual: 32T36.2259.008.359.209.7036.25
19T. Dorňáková
Qual: 1537.2759.309.309.359.6037.55
19T. Egervári
Qual: 2136.6259.559.608.409.3536.90
21. Smolíková
Qual: 19T36.7259.259.209.309.2537.00
22. Császár
Qual: 1237.3759.459.159.009.6537.25
23T. Schorn
Qual: 2336.5259.309.408.959.3036.95
23T. Matulai
Qual: 2236.5759.359.159.059.4036.95
25. Hayashida
Qual: 3636.1759.159.308.559.5536.55
26. Dunbar
Qual: 3536.2009.258.508.909.6036.25
27. Perdykulová
Qual: 27T36.3509.558.908.959.1536.55
28. Yabe
Qual: 30T36.3009.
29. CeampeleaElenaROU8.958.958.459.2035.55
Qual: 2536.4759.209.509.209.5037.40
30. Soukupová
Qual: 2436.5009.
31. Bánfai
Qual: 2936.3259.359.258.359.4536.40
32. Sabău
Qual: 32T36.2259.
33. Bujnáčková
Qual: 2636.3759.
34. Ioan
Qual: 27T36.3509.509.358.959.3037.10
35. Anderson
Qual: 3736.1508.959.108.609.5536.20
36. Matsuhisa
Qual: 32T36.2259.
Sources used: Olympische Turnkunst, no. 12, 1974 and Neues Deutsches Turnen, no. 12, 1974

Note #1: Each gymnast’s qualifying rank is listed under her name. Her qualifying average from compulsories and optionals (competitions 1a and 1b) are listed under her country. Her final all-around score is listed in bold print in the third row. It is the sum of his qualifying average and her point total from the all-around finals.

Note #2: At the time of this writing, only Larisa Latynina, Ludmilla Tourischeva, Shannon Miller, Svetlana Khorkina, and Simone Biles have won back-to-back all-around titles at the World Championships.

Nellie Kim qualified in 10th place with a total of 75.00 for compulsories (9.3, 9.5, 9.3, 9.55) and optionals (8.6, 9.6, 9.6, 9.55). But she pulled out due to injury. She did compete during event finals.

Allow me to share a few words about Nellie Kim. On the day when the USSR national team was competing for the team championship, this young athlete sustained an injury on the very first apparatus. Nevertheless, she proved remarkable courage by staying on the platform and continuing to compete, thereby earning her team such precious points. While doctors advised against her participation in individual competitions yesterday, it appears that we may see her in action on Sunday for the finals on individual apparatus. Our team will persist in the battle for the prizes as a united front.

Larisa Latynina, Gudok, No. 253, October 27, 1974

Два слова о Нелли Ким. В тот день, когда сборная СССР сражалась за командное первенство, эта девчушка получила на первом же снаряде травму, но не покинула помост и мужественно продолжала борьбу, принеся своей команде столь драгоценные баллы. Вчера врачи не позволили выступать ей в личных соревнованиях. Но, кажется, в воскресенье, она все же выйдет на помост в финале на отдельных снарядах. И наша команда продолжат борьбу за награды в полном составе.


Rotation 1

Standings after Rotation 1

1. TourischevaUB9.80048.950
2. KorbutFX9.70048.600
3. HellmannBB9.60047.825
4. DronovaFX9.65047.425
5. SikharulidzeUB9.50047.350
6. SaadiVT9.40047.275
7. ZinkeBB9.50047.225

The top three gymnasts received three scores in descending order, separated by one-tenth. According to the Hungarian press, this is what they deserved.

The front runners received decreasing scores (Tourischeva got 9.8 on the uneven bars, Korbut has 9.7 on the floor, Hellmann had 9.6 on the balance beam) and it was no different in the next rounds either. 

This was by no means the judges’ fault. This was what the three excellent gymnasts’ exercises deserved.

Népsport, October 26, 1974

Az élen állók szép sorrendben csökkenő pontszámokat kaptak (Turiscseva felemáskorláton 9.8, Korbut talajon 9.7, Hellmann gerendán 9.6) és ugyanez volt a helyzet a következő fordulókban is. 
Nem lehet ezt a pontozók terhére írni, valóban ebben a sorrendben lehetett értékelni a három kitűnő tornászgyakorlatait. 

According to Korbut, this is not what she deserved.

Then it was time for the All-Round individual competition. Even though I knew I had performed better than anyone else, I lost almost every event. When my scores came up, I fought off tears of resentment, while the audience supported me with boos and roars of indignation.

My Story, Olga Korbut

The U.S. delegation also felt that Korbut was fighting a futile battle.

To the American team, it appeared [Olga] was up against the same pre-arranged judging as we were. It was as though the judges had decided Ludmilla will be champion but that we’ll throw Olga a bone. This is hard for me to say because I am an ardent fan also of Ludmilla. Nevertheless, in fairness to Olga I think it should be said.

Minot Simons II, Gymnast, December 1974

Rotation 2

Standings after Rotation 2

1. TourischevaBB9.80058.750
2. KorbutVT9.55058.150
3. HellmannBB9.65057.475
4. SikharulidzeBB9.70057.050
5. SaadiUB9.70056.975
6. DronovaVT9.50056.925
7. ZinkeFX9.65056.875
Korbut, Vault

At the time of this writing, most of the digitized videos from 1974 are from the event finals. Very few videos of the all-around final can be found online.

Rotation 3

Standings after Rotation 3

1. TourischevaFX9.90068.650
2. KorbutUB9.80067.950
3. HellmannVT9.60067.075
4. SikharulidzeFX9.75066.800
5. SaadiBB9.70066.675
6. DronovaUB9.70066.625
7. ZinkeVT9.50066.375

Nina Dronova’s bar routine matched the floor music.

Note: Stanislav Tokarev, the author of the quote below, once dubbed Dronova the “Mozart of Gymnastics.”

Nina Dronova at that moment was flying over uneven bars in tune with the melody the graceful Romanian Alina Goreac used for her floor exercise. Even there Nina’s natural musicality was showing itself. She passed through this championship with flying colors and with great ease: everyone liked her and she liked herself. Nina hasn’t realized that at sixteen she was seventh in the world. She would have been in the top six, had it not been for a few minor mistakes on the balance beam – afterwards she was as if apologizing charmingly to the audience for her less than perfect score.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 253, October 27, 1974

Нина Дронова в этот момент летала на брусьях точно в такт мелодии вольных изящной румынки Алины Горяк — даже здесь сказывалась природная: музыкальность Нины. Она легко и славно прошла: этот чемпионат, всем понравилась, себе понравилась и даже не успела еще осознать, что в свои шестнадцать она — седьмая в мире. Она была бы и в шестерке, если бы не несколько мелких ошибок на бревне, после которых она словно бы мило извинялась перед зрителями, ла не выдающаяся оценка.

Tourischeva performed two different floor routines at the 1974 World Championships.

Only once did Tourischeva raise her eyes to the platform. She glanced sideways at uneven bars, where Korbut was flying and then lowered her gaze again. “I wanted to perform my floor exercise once Olya had finished her routine. She is always getting a lot of applause, it might be unsettling.”

Korbut drew the line of the famous dismount in the air, froze, waved to the tourists and left. Then Lyuda came out to the mat. Sasha Makarov, the team’s accompanist, inspiringly shook his artistic curls and began playing Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto.

The day before, Tourischeva performed another floor exercise routine – her “Freedom to Africa.” In the evening, by the sea, I asked her why she had changed her routine.

“You know, in that routine I had to smile, but I was in no mood for that. I wanted… to triumph.”

Sovetsky Sport, no. 253, October 27, 1974

…Только раз Турищева подняла глаза на помост. Покосилась на брусья, где порхала Корбут, и вновь опустила взгляд. «Я хотела. выйти на вольные после того, как Оля закончит комбинацию. Знаете, ей всегда очень хлопают, и это может сбить».
Корбут прочертила в воздухе траекторию знаменитого соскока, застыла, помахала ручками туристам, ушла, и вышла Люда. Саша Макаров, аккомпаниатор. сборной, вдохновенно встряхнул своими артистическими кудрями и заиграл Первый концерт Чайковского.
„Накануне Турищева сделала другие вольные — свою «Свободу Африке». И вечером над морем я спросил, почему она сменила репертуар.
«Знаете, в тех вольных надо улыбаться, а у меня было настроение не улыбаться, а знаете… торжествовать».

Rotation 4

Standings after Rotation 4

1. TourischevaVT9.80078.450
2. KorbutBB9.70077.650
3. HellmannUB9.80076.875
4. SaadiFX9.75076.425
5. SikharulidzeVT9.60076.400
6. ZinkeUB9.95076.325
7. DronovaBB9.50076.125

Zinke received the highest score of the day: a 9.95.

But who can describe the jubilation in our outstanding squad when 15-year-old Annelore Zinke once again won the hearts of the spectators on uneven bars and received the highest score of the World Championships so far, a 9.95, for her magnificent routine. This allowed her to move up to sixth place with 76.325 points and, as a newcomer to the World Championships, to take part in the award ceremony for the best.

Berliner Zeitung, October 26, 1974

Wer aber will den Jubel in unse- rer hervorragenden Riege beschreiben, als sich die 15jährige Annelore Zinke am Barren erneut in die Herzen der Zuschauer hineinturnen konnte und für ihre prachtvolle Kür die bisherige Höchstnote dieser WM, eine 9,95, erhielt. Damit konnte sie sich mit 76,325 Punkten noch auf den sechsten Platz vorschieben und als WM-Neuling bereits an der Ehrung der Besten teilnehmen.

From Sovetsky Sport‘s coverage of the all-around final.

Tourischeva and Rastorotsky are a perfect example of creative fusion between an athlete and a coach. Her trust in him knows no limits indeed. I remember a year ago at a training camp in Leselidze there was a rest day. She went to Lake Ritsa, relaxed, ate some chebureki – local pastries… As a result, she gained half a kilo extra over her optimal weight. Next morning, with a warm jacket on, she was circling around the stadium, again and again. She was exhausted and then on training couldn’t manage the vault (today’s “Tsukahara.”) Rastorotsky told her off severely; and she told me later: “Vladislav Stepanovich is right, surely, it’s all my fault. What do we need rest days for anyway? Rest is boring and bad – a person must work.” That day, on October 7, she turned 21.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 253, October 27, 1974

Турищева и Растороцкий — идеальный образец творческого сотрудничества спортсменки и тренера. Она ему доверяет действительно безгранично. Помню, год назад на тренировочном сборе в Леселидзе был день отдыха, и она ездила на озеро Рица, отдыхала, ела чебуреки… А у нее тогда было полкило лишних сверх боевого веса, и на следующее утро, надев теплую куртку, она мерила и мерила круги по стадиону. Устала, и потом на тренировке не клеился прыжок — нынешняя «цукахара». Растороцкий сделал ей суровый выговор, а мне она потом сказала: «Конечно, Владислав Степанович прав, а я виновата. И зачем вообще  нужны дни отдыха? Отдыхать скучно и вредно, человек должен трудиться». В тот день, 7 октября, ей исполнился 21 год.

Here’s how the Hungarian press summed up the differences between Tourischeva and Korbut.

One could tell on the very first day of the World Championships that the spectators were divided into two groups. The pro and con arguments of the Ludmilla and Olga fans clashed during breaks, on café terraces, and on buses. Ludmilla Tourischeva and Olga Korbut, the two Soviet gymnasts, started their intense battle for individual supremacy already during the team competition. Both had massive fan bases, not only at the World Championships but all around the world. Olga has numerous admirers, as she has been an idol to teenage sports enthusiasts for years. Her slender, nerve-filled body, the mischievous audacity in her movements and her determination grabs the spectators’ attention throughout her time on the competition floor and commands admiration. It is almost as if Olga, in some magical way, gathers and radiates YOUTH among the spectators.

Ludmilla is almost a perfect opposite of Olga. With her seriousness, discipline, and incredible focus, she earns the respect and affection of the spectators even before she begins her routine. Her performance is like poetry. Her movements reflect the harmony of body and mind, the triumph of human ability and willpower. Which one is better? The debate flared up again and again.

In the end, Ludmilla Tourischeva, with unparalleled strength in her routines, harmonizing with the spirit of the World Championships and her exceptional performance, deservedly won the individual all-around competition. She has remained undefeated at the World Championships since 1970.

Népsport, November 1, 1974

Már a VB versenysorozatának első napján jól kivehetően két pártra szakadtak a nézők. A Ljudmila- és az Olga-párt érvei és ellenérvei csaptak öszsze a versenyek szünetében, a kávéházi teraszokon, az autóbuszon. Ljudmila Turiscseva és Olga Korbut, a két szovjet tornásznő már a csapatverseny során elkezdte élményszerű küzdelmét az egyéni elsőségért. Mindkettőjüknek hatalmas szurkolótábora volt, természetesen nemcsak a VB színhelyén, hanem szerte a világon. Különösen Olga imádói vannak nagy számban, hiszen ő évek óta változatlanul a tizenéves sportkedvelők bálványa. Vékony, csupa ideg kis teste, mozdulatainak csibészes szemtelensége, akaratossága, ahogy egész idő alatt, amíg a küzdőtéren van, megragadja a nézők figyelmét, és valósággal kikényszeríti belőlük a csodálatot. Ez mindenestül egészen olyan, mintha Olga valamilyen lencse segítségével önmagában gyűjtené össze és sugározná újra szét a nézőik között az IFJÚSÁGOT. 
Ljudmila majdnem tökéletes ellentéte Olgának. Ő komolyságával, fegyelmével, hallatlan összpontosító képességével vívja ki nézőinek elismerését és rokonszenvét, még mielőtt gyakorlatát elkezdené. Tomnája pedig olyan, mint egy költemény. Test és szellem harmóniája, az emberi teljesítőképesség, az akarat diadala — mindez ott van mozdulataiban. Melyikük a nagyobb? A vita újra meg újra fellángolt. 
Végül a világbajnokság szellemével jobban összeegyeztetett, nagyobb anyagerősségű gyakorlataival, páratlan előadáskészségével, teljesen megérdemelten győzött az egyéni összetettben Ljudmila Turiscseva, aki 1970 óta immár a negyedik világversenyen maradt veretlen.

The Hungarian press was impressed that Hellmann was able to beat several Soviet gymnasts and finish third.

Hellmann, who was 3rd, was the Benjamin of the GDR team four years ago and even Munich she could feel the pull of the two famous gymnasts, Janz and Zuchold. Now she is team captain and now it is her task to be the engine of the GDR team full of young novices. What a good job this 20-year-old gymnast did with this difficult task is demonstrated by the fact that only she could get a place among the Soviet girls. The three front runners were followed by seven gymnasts with a 75 hundredth difference in scores. Medveczky Krisztina was also among them.

Népsport, October 26, 1974

Kiélezett küzdelemre számíthattunk, hiszen egyetlen gyengébbre sikerült gyakorlat már sorsdöntő lehetett. Hellmann, aki a 3. helyet foglalta el, négy évvel ezelőtt az NDK csapatának Benjáminja volt és még Münchenben is maga előtt érezhette az együttes két nagynevű tornásznőjének, Janznak és Zucoldnak a húzóerejét. Most csapatkapitány lett és egyszeriben rá hárult a feladat, hogy a fiatal, újoncokkal, teletűzdelt NDK-beli együttes motorja legyen. Hogy ez a 20 éves tornásznő milyen jól oldotta meg a nehéz feladatot, bizonyítja az, hogy egyedül ő tudott a szovjet lányok közé beékelődni! A három éllovas mögött 75 századpontos különbséggel hét tornásznő helyezkedett el, köztük volt Medveczky Krisztina is.

Note: The reference to Benjamin is a biblical reference. Benjamin was the twelfth-born and youngest son in Jacob’s family. So, the article notes that Hellmann was the baby of the team.

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