1974 Judging Controversy WAG World Championships

1974: The Women’s Event Finals at the World Championships

Context: At the 1972 Olympics, only three countries (the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Hungary) were represented in the women’s event finals, and only two countries won medals (the Soviet Union and East Germany).

At the 1974 World Championships, five countries (the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Hungary) were represented during the women’s event finals, and three countries won medals (the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia).

Though there was slightly more diversity in 1974, some things did not change. Just as the uneven bars final was highly contentious in Munich, so, too, was the uneven bars final in Varna. Olga Korbut went as far as to say that the results were predetermined. 

Here’s what happened on Sunday, October 27, 1974.

Datum: 23.11.1974 Copyright: imago/Günter Gueffroy Annelore Zinke (li.) und Karin Janz (beide DDR)

According to Sovetsky Sport, Zinke was called the “brunette Janz.”

Quick Links: Vault | Bars | Beam | Floor Exercise | Videos | An Interview with Annelore Zinke


Note: COA stands for compulsories + optionals average.

1. Korbut
2. Tourischeva
3. Perdykulová
4. Goreac
5. Hellmann
6. Sikharulidze

Context: There were major changes to the vault rules before the 1974 World Championships.

The Yamashita was downgraded from a 10.0 to a 9.70.

Vault No. 19. Yamashita. Jump, body and arms stretched to an inverted support sideways, turn forward through a piked (flexed) position and straighten the body after leaving the horse, landing rearways. 9.70 points.

FIG Bulletin, No. 3, 1973

Two different vaults were required for finals. One vault had to include a twist. The higher score counted. (It was not the average of the two vaults.)

Prescriptions for the finals to enter into force on 1.1.1974

a) Two different vaults.

b) One of the vaults must include a lengthwise or crosswise turn.

c) The vaults may be of the same kind, one simple, the other with a turn.

d) It is permissible to execute two vaults with turns, but in this case the turns must be different.

e) If a gymnast executes two simple vaults and one turn is lacking, the better vault will be subject to a penalty of 1 point.

f) Scoring is applied to the two vaults. The better executed one counts.

g) The gymnast is expected to perform two vaults. If she presents only one, there will be a penalty of 1 point.

FIG Bulletin, No. 3, 1973

Though Tourischeva fell on her Tsukahara, Olga “would probably have won even if Ludmilla had not stumbled.”

Reminder: Tourischeva came into the finals with a 0.1 lead over Korbut.

Olga won vaulting finals with a superb demonstration of skill and training. Her first vault included a full turn in pre-flight with a back somersault off; her second vault included a full turn in pre-flight with a full turn off. Both vaults were faultlessly executed and she earned 9.85. Ludmilla’s first vault was a handspring followed by a full turn and won her a 9.5; her second vault was a half turn followed by a back somie which she missed. It is hard to conceive of Ludmilla’s getting an 8.6 in anything but that was what she got and with a 9.6 average,* placed second. Actually, Olga would probably have won even if Ludmilla had not stumbled but her fault clinched it for Olga. During closing ceremonies, Olga received a special award for her vaulting.

Minot Simons II, Gymnast, December 1974

*Note: The 9.6 average refers to the average of her compulsories and optional scores. (However, her average was 9.7; Korbut had a 9.6 average.) During finals, only Tourischeva’s 9.5 counted. The 8.6 was dropped.

Even on vault, Korbut was able to conquer the hearts of the spectators.

I’ll start with the most pleasant and “fruitful” events. Although we had our share of stress, as Tourischeva in her vaults failed to do an accurate landing both after the twist and “Tsukahara”, whereas Sikharulidze, instead of a clean landing on the platform, sat down. Although quite gracefully, it was not enough to get a winning score. Korbut came to the rescue, pulling her “emergency” element – a twist following the push, which stunned both the judges and the audience. The tiniest of athletes, she once again conquered the spectators’ hearts.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 254, 1974

…Начну с событий наиболее приятных, так — сказать, «урожайных». Впрочем, мы слегка поволновались, поскольку в прыжках — Турищева никак не могла — приземлиться точно — ни после «винта», ни после «цукахары», а Сихарулидзе вместо доскока присаживалась на помост, хотя и довольно изящно, однако не настолько, чтобы получить победный балл. Выручила — Корбут, бросившая в бой «НЗ» — «винт» после толчка, чем сразила и судей, и зрителей. Самая крохотная из спортсменок, она вновь завоевала сердца публики.

The aforementioned rule changes did produce greater difficulty on vault.

A greater increase in difficulty in comparison to Munich was observed in vaulting than in the other events. This was undoubtedly due to the downgrading in difficulty of the yamashita from 10.0 to 9.7 and to the requirement that optional vaults include a turn. Most of the finals vaults, other than those of Olga Korbut, were handspring full turn, yamashita full turn, or half turn back somie.

Minot Simons II, Gymnast, December 1974

Perdykulová had the best Tsukahara in event finals, and she’s lucky that the two vaults were not averaged together.

Goreac’s technique on her Tsukahara is interesting. Instead of doing a round-off (i.e. a quarter turn onto the horse), she completed the half-turn before touching the horse.

Here’s a video of Korbut’s full twist on + full twist off. Interestingly, she does more than a full turn in the first flight phase.

Uneven Bars

1. Zinke
2. Korbut
3. Tourischeva
4. Hellmann
5. Schmeißer
6. Medveczky

As noted in the men’s all-around, there were errors in the official result lists. The same is true for the women. They reportedly had the wrong scores for Krisztina Medveczky of Hungary, which almost put Nellie Kim in the final instead. But the problem was corrected.

Thursday afternoon we got some happy news in the sport palace: Medveczky Krisztina is in the finals after all for the uneven bars! There was a disputed hundredth point in Krisztina’s score the whole time. According to our calculation, this should have gone to our gymnast but on the official results, it was never shown. Today they finally corrected the list officially as well. Krisztina had the same number of points as Kim for the uneven bars in 6th place. However, as there was an error in the calculation the Soviet girl had the same aggregate scores and out-scored Krisztina in the optionals — what a complicated matter this is! — Kim would have made it to the finals. 

However, the five-hundredths of a point changed the situation in our favour and on Sunday the women’s final will not take place without a Hungarian participant.

Népsport, October 25, 1974

Csütörtökön délután örömhír várt bennünket a sportpalotában: Medveczky Krisztina mégis döntőben van a felemáskorláton! Krisztina pontszámánál ugyanis mindvégig volt egy vitás öt század. Ez a mi számításunk szerint megillette tornásznőnket, a hivatalos eredménylistán viszont következetesen lemaradt eredményéből. Mára aztán végre hivatalosan is javították a listát. Krisztina azonos pontszámmal állt felemáskorláton a 6. helyen a szovjet Kimmel, de mivel a hibás számítás szerint a szovjet lánynak azonos öszszetett eredménye volt és több pontot gyűjtött a szabadon választottban, mint Krisztina — milyen bonyolult dolog ez! — Kim jutott volna a döntőbe. 
Az öt század pont azonban javunkra változtatta meg a helyzetet és vasárnap a női szerenkénti döntő sem zajlik majd magyar részvevő nélkül. 

According to Korbut, the results were predetermined. She had no chance of beating Zinke.

The only time I lost my temper outright was when I didn’t get the gold for the uneven bars — my best apparatus. The gold was given to Zinke, a German athlete whose routine was neither original nor executed perfectly. When I saw the results, I went up to Yuri Titov, the leader of the delegation.

“This is ridiculous,” I told him. “You saw yourself that I should have had the gold for the uneven bars. We should file a protest.”

“Yes, I saw,” he said. “We should not file a protest.”

How could my own team leadership do this to me? I decided to appeal to his greedy side. “But we’re losing a medal! How come we shouldn’t protest?”

“Relax, Olga,” he said, without even looking over at me. “We’re not losing anything.”

Now I got it. Ludmilla Tourischeva was supposed to be retiring from the sport soon, and they wanted her to leave in a beautiful way, a Socialist way. She would go out on top, and it would be a glorious farewell. It didn’t matter how hard all of the athletes worked — pulling ligaments in our young bodies, breaking bones, and giving up anything resembling normal lives. Behind our backs, the adults who ran the sport treated us like pawns on a chessboard, deciding who would win or lose for their own selfish reasons.

In any event, it turned out that our team had “given away” first place on the bars to Zinke; while in return, Tourischeva would receive the gold in the floor exercise. Each of the winners had been selected before we even set foot on the podium. It wasn’t much consolation when one of the German judges (ours got off scot-free) was later disqualified without great fanfare — especially when that very same judge returned to sit on the panel of judges at the Olympic Games in Montréal.

I still can’t believe that anyone would want to distribute titles in advance. It has always been difficult to bribe Western judges, but it was no problem with the judges from the Socialist countries. There was a joke at the time: when a rooster crows in Moscow, people in Prague (Berlin, Warsaw, etc.) say “Good morning.” Incidentally, this “system” was also practiced in sports other than gymnastics.

Olga Korbut, My Story

Note: Korbut is not the only person who claimed that Titov was orchestrating the results.

There was much debate about which gymnast should have won.

There was considerable discussion among the American girls as to which is the more difficult. Olga won a 9.8 and placed second. I leave it to the reader to decide his or her own opinion. In any case, Zinke is a girl to be reckoned with. It will be exciting to see how she has developed by Montreal when she will be all of 17.

Minot Simons II, Gymnast, December 1974

Zinke did two of the most impressive moves on bars at the time: The Korbut salto + the Janz salto.

Fun fact: The Janz salto served as the inspiration for the Jaeger salto, which Bernd Jäger debuted in 1974.

Here’s Korbut’s bar routine in full. You can decide if Zinke should have beaten Korbut.

Keep in mind that Korbut entered finals with a 0.025 lead.

Finally, Hellmann’s dismount deserves recognition. It’s like a platform diver’s handstand snapdown.

Balance Beam

1. Tourischeva
2. Korbut
3. Kim
4. Dronova
5. Goreac
6. Hellmann

Tourischeva won despite a small error after her two forward rolls.

Her coach blamed himself for getting distracted during her routine.

Tourischeva almost lost her balance on the balance beam after two of her “trademark” somersaults – no mistake was made in this element in seven years. Rastorotsky blamed himself: “I follow in my mind all her movements, I influence her, and then I decided to experiment, got distracted. Once I tuned in again everything went back to normal.” Whether it’s true or not, Tourischeva stayed true to herself, so she pulled herself together and gained her focus in a split second.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 254, 1974

Турищева на бревне едва не потеряла равновесие после двух своих «фирменных» кувырков — здесь она уже семь лет не ошибалась. Растороцкий счел виновным себя: «Знаешь, я за ней мысленно все движения повторяю, я влияю на нее, а тут я решил поэкспериментировать, я отвлекся, а потом я опять включился, и все стало в порядке». Так ли, нет ли, но Турищева — это Турищева, н вновь собралась, вновь сконцентрировалась она в долю секунды.

You can see Tourischeva’s mishap here.

Alina Goreac went for the hardest beam dismount during the beam finals.

Reminder: Dobre, one of Goreac’s teammates, also pushed the envelope when she did a layout step-out on beam in 1974.

Korbut moved her standing back tuck to the middle of her routine. (In Munich, it was at the end of her routine.)

Kim also performed a standing back tuck — perhaps even better than Korbut did.

My thought bubble: Those swing turns leading up to the back tuck were extremely awkward. They made it look like she got lost on the beam.

Floor Exercise

1. Tourischeva
2. Korbut
3T. Saadi
3T. Sikharulidze
5. Dronova
6. Hellmann

Reminder: Nina Dronova was at the center of a judging controversy that placed her in the floor finals.

Unfortunately, most of the commentary about the women’s event finals did not say much about women’s floor exercise, so you’re stuck with me.

In 1972, a front layout was extremely rare. Joan Moore (USA, WAG) and Nakayama Akinori (JPN, MAG) both performed the skill in Munich. Korbut added the skill to her opening tumbling pass.

Tourischeva removed the double full that opened her floor routine in Munich, opting for a combination pass in Varna.

If only all gymnasts could perform floor like Elvira Saadi. Even without music, you can feel the passion of her choreography.

Note: At the time of this writing, Elvira Saadi is banned for life from coaching in Canada.

Another Comment

In his book Women’s Gymnastics, a History, Minot Simons II states that the results of the 1974 World Championships influenced the FIG’s decision to instate the two-per-country rule.

The primary significance of the 1974 World Championships is that it led to the rule established by the International Federation of Gymnastics that only three gymnasts per country could participate in the individual all-around competition and only two per country, in apparatus finals. It was the success in Varna of the Soviet and East Geram gymnasts that brought about this rule.

It’s a logical conclusion when you look at the results, but Simons’s assertion is not true. The FIG made the two-per-country decision in 1973 in its negotiations with the International Olympic Committee. Read more here.


Order in the Video:


  • Angelika Hellmann, GDR
  • Božena Perdykulová, TCH
  • Ludmilla Tourischeva, URS
  • Alina Goreac, ROU
  • Olga Korbut, URS


  • Annelore Zinke, GDR
  • Ludmilla Tourischeva, URS
  • Angelika Hellmann, GDR
  • Olga Korbut, URS
  • Ricarda Schmeißer


  • Olga Korbut, URS
  • Alina Goreac, ROU
  • Nina Dronova, URS
  • Nellie Kim, URS
  • Ludmilla Tourischeva, URS


  • Olga Korbut, URS
  • Ludmilla Tourischeva, URS
  • Elvira Saadi, URS
  • Rusudan Sikharulidze, URS
  • Nina Dronova, URS

Appendix: A Short Interview with Annelore Zinke

After Zinke won gold at the 1974 World Championships, Neues Deutschland ran a short interview with her. Below, you can find a translation.

Annelore Zinke World Champion on Uneven Bars

I like to go hunting with my father

ND: You just finished your routine. Happy?

Annelore Zinke: Yes, very much. A 9.85… Wait, it even shows a 9.90.

ND: And such a high score for the first gymnast, doesn’t happen very often?

Annelore Zinke: I am only 15, I still lack the experience. I only know that the judges have rarely given a 9.90 at the beginning, because then they can hardly go much higher.

ND: What do you think now?

Annelore Zinke: Now I have to wait, what Olga Korbut does.

ND: Were you calm?

Annelore Zinke: Well, a little nervous.

ND: What did Angelika Hellmann whisper in your ear when you approached the podium?

Annelore Zinke: She gave me one last bit of advice.

ND: Was it nice that you knew Angelika Hellmann and Ricarda Schmeisser in the final?

Annelore Zinke: That calmed me down a lot… Wait, now it’s Olga’s turn… a 9.80, enough, I’m world champion!

ND: Congratulations, but a few quick questions: Who is your coach?

Annelore Zinke: Mr. Heritz, he also coaches Karin Janz.

ND: What do you think Karin will think now?

Annelore Zinke: I’m sure she’s very happy. She was my role model and she was expecting me in the final as well.

ND: Do you also have Spartakiad medals?

Annelore Zinke: No, I took part in the children’s class twice, but was not yet as good that it was enough for a medal.

ND: Your favorite activity?

Annelore Zinke: I like to read.

ND: And what?

Annelore Zinke: Everything, hodgepodge. But I also like to go hunting with my father. I recently overheard a deer roaring with my father. That was a thrilling experience.

ND: Where do you go when the trip goes to the parents?

Annelore Zinke: To Gorden in Lusatia.

Neues Deutschland, October 28, 1974
Annelore Zinke Weltmeisterin am Stufenbarren
Ich gehe gern mit dem Vater auf die Jagd
ND: Sie haben eben Ihre Obung beendet. Glücklich?
Annelore Zinke: Ja sehr. Eine 9,85… Moment, es wird sogar eine 9,90 gezeigt.
ND: Und solch eine hohe Note gleich für die erste Turnerin, dos kommt doch zelten vor?
Annelore Zinke Ich bin ja erst 15, da fehlt mir noch die Erfaihrang, Ich weiß nur, daß die Kampfgerichte zu Beginn bisher ganz selten eine 9,90 gegeben haben, da sie dann ja kaum noch viel höher gehen können.
ND: Was denken Sie jetzt?
Annelore Zinke: Jetzt muß Ich warten, was Olga Korbut turnt.
ND: Waren Sie ruhig?
Annelore Zinke: Na ja, ein bißchen aufgeregt schon.
ND: Was hat Ihnen Angelika Hellmann ins Ohr geflüstert, als Sie das Podium betraten?
Annelore Zinke: Sie hat mir noch einen letzten Tip gegeben.
ND: War es schön, daß Sie Angelika Hellmann und Ricarda Schmeißer mit im Finale wußten?
Annelore Zinke: Das hat mich sehr beruhigt … Moment, jetzt ist Olga dran … eine 9,80, es reicht, ich bin Weltmeisterin!
ND: Herzlichen Glückwunsch, aber schnell noch einige Fragen: Wer ist Ihr Trainer?
Annelore Zinke: Herr Heritz, er hat auch Karin Janz trainiert.
ND: Was glauben Sie, was Karin jetzt denken wird?
Annelore Zinke: Ich bin sicher, daß sie sich sehr freut. Sie war mein Vorbild, und sie erwartete mich auch im Finale.
ND: Haben Sie auch Spartakiademedaillen?
Annelore Zinke: Nein, ich nahm zwar zweimal in der Kinderklasse teil, war aber noch nicht so gut, daß es für eine Medaille reichte.
ND: Ihre Lieblingsbeschäftigung?
Annelore Zinke: Ich lese gern.
ND: Und was?
Annelore Zinke: Alles durcheinander. Ich gehe aber auch gern mit meinem Vater zur Jagd, Erst kürzlich belauschte Ich mit meinem Vater einen röhrenden Hirsch. Das war ein tolles Erlebnis.
ND: Wo fahren Sie hin, wenn die Fahrt zu den Eltern geht?
Annelore Zinke: Nach. Gorden in der Lausitz.

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