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1967 Czechoslovakia WAG

1967: The Czechoslovak Championships in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

No surprise: Věra Čáslavská won the Czechoslovak Championships in April ahead of the 1967 European Championships. The big news was that she had upgraded her routines, adding a front handspring to needle scale on beam, as well as a full-twisting hecht dismount from the upper rail on uneven bars.

Let’s take a look at what happened at the 1967 Czechoslovak Nationals.

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1968 Books MAG Olympics USSR

1968: Voronin on What Went Wrong in Mexico

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, both Voronin and the Soviet team took silver. In Voronin’s 1976 autobiography titled Number One (Первый номер), he underscores that 1968 was a low point for him:

Yes, the [1968] Olympics left a deep mark on me. The tension was huge. I fought the Japanese alone, without the support of my comrades, and the increased responsibility drained me of all my mental and physical strength. The pain of loss was so great and humiliating that it shattered my faith in my own strength.

Jah, olümpiamängud jätsid minusse sügava jälje. Närvipinge oli tohutu. Heitlesin jaapanlastega üksinda, kaaslaste toetuseta ja sellest suurenenud vastutus pitsitas minust välja kogu vaimu- ja kehajõu. Kaotusevalu oli nii suur ja alandav, et põrmustas usu oma jõusse.

And he places the blame squarely at the feet of Valentin Muratov, the head coach of the Soviet team at that time. To support his point, Voronin highlights the misleading overscoring at domestic meets, the bizarre line-up order that upset both Voronin and Diomidov at the Olympics, Muratov’s insults, and the failure to block Kato Sawao’s 9.90 on floor exercise, where Muratov was the head judge at the Olympics.

At the same time, Voronin does conclude that the Japanese gymnasts were better and that the Soviet team’s expectations were off. The USSR thought that they had caught up to the Japanese team, but in reality, they were far behind.

Note #1: You can see a Soviet clip on Muratov here.

Note #2: Chapters of Voronin’s book were translated into Estonian for the newspaper Spordileht, and I have translated the chapter from Estonian into English. The following excerpts come from the January 16, 1978, January 18, 1978, January 23, 1978, and January 25, 1978 issues of Spordileht.

Note #3: This section of Voronin’s book responds to criticisms found in the pages of Sovetsky Sport, the main sports newspaper of the Soviet Union. You can read the newspaper’s coverage of the Soviet men in Mexico City here.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 22: Mikhail Voronin of the Soviet Union competes in the Rings of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Team Compulsory during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 22, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
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Books MAG USSR

Mikhail Voronin on His Early Years in Gymnastics

Like many top gymnasts, Mikhail Voronin did not set out to become a gymnast. He liked soccer and hockey much more. When he was 13, one gymnastics coach looked at his body type and turned him away. But he caught the eye of his physical education teacher, Konstantin Sadikov, and that’s how his journey got started.

As you’ll see below, coaches are often the central characters in Voronin’s 1976 autobiography, Number One (Первый номер), which is understandable. After all, his coaches helped guide him to success, and there was a certain mystique around champion coaches in the international gymnastics community at the time.

At the same time, Voronin is building a larger argument: his career was often mismanaged, and the coaches surrounding him did not always guide him or his teammates in the right way. (This point will be further emphasized in the chapter on the Mexico City Olympics, which will be the subject of the next post.)

Note: Chapters of Voronin’s book were translated into Estonian for the newspaper Spordileht, and I have translated the chapter from Estonian into English. The following excerpts come from the January 11, 1978, January 13, 1978, and January 16, 1978 issues of Spordileht.

Bildnummer: 06139072 Datum: 20.09.1966 Copyright: imago/ITAR-TASS Dortmund. The world competitions in gymnastics. Mikhail Voronin (first place, UDSSR, C), Tsurumi (second place, Japan) and Nakayama (third place, Japan).
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1968 MAG Olympics USSR

1968: Sovetsky Sport’s Critical Coverage of the Soviet Men in Mexico

Sovetsky Sport didn’t hold back when covering the Soviet men’s team at the Mexico Olympics. The main sports newspaper of the Soviet Union pointed fingers at Diomidov and Lisitsky for underperforming. It blamed Muratov, the head judge on floor exercise, for flashing a 9.90 for Kato Sawao’s optional floor routine — a score that bumped Mikhail Voronin to second place in the all-around standings. 

Even Mikhail Voronin was not spared from criticism. On the one hand, the newspaper posited that Voronin was competing without much support from his team. On the other hand, it pointed out that Voronin needed to upgrade his routines to remain competitive.

As we’ll see in an upcoming post, Voronin spent a big chunk of his autobiography responding to the criticism of Sovetsky Sport.

Note: You can find the main articles for the 1968 Olympics here: Compulsories, Optionals, Event Finals). You can find Sovetsky Sport’s coverage of the women’s competition in Mexico City here.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 22: Mikhail Voronin of the Soviet Union competes in the Rings of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Team Compulsory during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 22, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
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1968 Olympics USSR WAG

1968: Sovetsky Sport’s Celebratory Coverage of the Soviet Women in Mexico

Sovetsky Sport, the main sports newspaper of the Soviet Union, had nothing but good things to say about the Soviet women’s gymnastics team in Mexico City. (As we’ll see, the publication had more than a few critical things to say about the men.) In particular, the writers applauded the performances of Natalia Kuchinskaya and highlighted the friendship among the gymnasts as the key to their success.

In this post, we’ll look at the newspaper’s coverage of everything from the compulsories to Larisa Petrik’s gold medal on floor — a feat that she never thought possible.

Note: You can find the main articles for the women’s competition here: Compulsories, Optionals, Event Finals, The Myth of Petrik’s Floor Score.

Front page, Sovetsky Sport, October 25, 1968
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1966 Books MAG USSR World Championships

1966: Voronin Remembers His All-Around Victory at the World Championships

What does it feel like to be in the lead after the first day of competition? And what does it feel like to hang onto that lead to win the all-around title? 

In his book, Number One (1976), Mikhail Voronin recounts what he was thinking and feeling during the World Championships in Dortmund, where he won the all-around title.

In addition to insights into his inner state, Voronin’s autobiography provides a few details that were not reported widely at the time. For example, the Soviet team had a new coach on the floor during the optional competition in Dortmund because the other coach was too nervous during the compulsory competition. And there are gossipy tidbits like this one: Sergei Diomidov had a fight with his coach before the 1966 World Championships, which made him want to quit the sport.

Below is a translation of the first chapter of Voronin’s book.

Note: The first chapter of Voronin’s book was translated into Estonian for the newspaper Spordileht (published January 4 and 6, 1978), and I have translated the chapter from Estonian into English.

Datum: 20.09.1966 Copyright: imago/ITAR-TASS Dortmund. The world competitions in gymnastics. Mikhail Voronin (first place, UDSSR, C), Tsurumi (second place, Japan) and Nakayama (third place, Japan).
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1966 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1966: A Profile of Jaroslava Matlochová, Czechoslovakia’s Head Coach

Jaroslava Matlochová was a fixture of the gymnastics community for decades — both as a coach and as a member of the Women’s Technical Committee. In fact, she was one of the early champions of relying on younger gymnasts in women’s artistic gymnastics. Yet, little has been written about her online.

So, here’s a translation of a profile on her, printed in Stadión just after the Czechoslovak women’s team took gold at the Dortmund World Championships.

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1966 Books Czechoslovakia MAG World Championships

1966: Czechoslovak Coverage of the Golden World Championships in Dortmund

At the 1966 World Championships, the Czechoslovak women’s team finally defeated the Soviet team, and Čáslavská won the all-around title, defeating Kuchinskaya, who reportedly stated before the competition, “I will share the medals with Čáslavská!”

Stadión, a Czechoslovak sports magazine, dedicated several pages to the competition. The article’s tone was blunt in places. It criticized the complacency of the Czechoslovak men’s team, as well as the judges during the women’s event finals and Villancher’s interventions in the judging.

Note: Berthe Villancher, the President of the Women’s Technical Committee, was known for her interventions. For example, she intervened during Čáslavská’s beam routine at the 1968 Olympics and during Tourischeva’s beam routine at the 1969 European Championships.

It also provided interesting tidbits of information. For example, there were spies at the competitions in Czechoslovakia before the World Championships; the Czechoslovak pianist may have been the key to victory; and the Czechoslovak gymnasts’ shoes were believed to have magical powers.

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1966 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1966: A Profile of Bohumila Řimnáčová

Bohumila Řimnáčová was a member of the Czechoslovak team that won gold at the 1966 World Championships, silver at the 1968 Olympic Games, and bronze at the 1970 World Championships. Injuries prevented her from competing at the 1964 Olympic Games.

The following profile, printed in Stadión before the Dortmund World Championships in 1966, traces Řimnáčová’s career that took off after she answered a newspaper ad. Like many Czech gymnasts from this era, she originally wanted to be a figure skater.

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1966 Czechoslovakia MAG Perfect 10 WAG

1966: Čáslavská Scores a 10.0 at the Czechoslovak Championships

With three months to go until the World Championships, the Czechoslovak women’s team looked strong at the national championships. Not only did Čáslavská score a 10.0 on floor, but they had seven gymnasts score a 76.00 or better in the all-around.

On the men’s side, there was much rumination about what went wrong in Tokyo. At the 1962 World Championships, the Czechoslovak men were third. At the 1964 Olympic Games, they dropped to sixth. Sotorník, the head coach of the team, even mentions his team’s work with a psychologist.

Here’s the coverage of the 1966 Czechoslovak Championships from the sports magazine Stadión.