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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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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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1968 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1968: An Interview with Čáslavská before the Olympics

Right before the Mexico City Olympics, the Czech-language magazine Reportér printed a long interview with Věra Čáslavská. It covered a wide range of topics: her relationship with the media, her superstitions, her relationship with her coach, her first World Championships, and more.

You can read a translation below…

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1968 Olympics WAG

1968: Valerie Nagy’s Reaction to the Mexico City Olympics

What were the 1968 Olympics like from the perspective of a Women’s Technical Committee member? Well, the Vice President, Valerie Nagy of Hungary, wrote an article for Olympische Turnkunst, in which she summarized her views.

Not surprisingly, she pointed out that there was some “clever teamwork” among the judges. 

100 Years of the FIG
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1968 Gym Nerd Trivia Olympics

1968: Gym Nerd Quiz about the Olympics

If you’re reading this site, you’re a gym nerd at heart. Now, it’s time to see just how much of a gym nerd you are. Take the quiz below to find out.

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1968 Olympics WAG

1968: The Women’s Event Finals in Mexico City

History is a matter of perspective, and, by extension, so are gymnastics results. As we’ll see, the women’s event finals were highly contested at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Let’s take a look at what happened…

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1968 Olympics WAG

1968: The Women’s Optionals Competition in Mexico City

On Wednesday, October 23, 1968, the Olympians in women’s artistic gymnastics competed in the optionals portion of the competition. As far as gold medals were concerned, there weren’t any surprises. The Soviet team was leading after the compulsories, and they ended up with gold. Čáslavská was leading the all-around after compulsories, and she won gold.

But the competition had its fair share of drama, especially on the podium. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Czech Vera Caslavska performs her routine on the beam at the Olympic Games in Mexico, on October 23 1968. The Czech gymnast won the all around individual title in gymnastics competition in Mexico City. Vera Caslavska, one of the most titled gymnast switched from ice skating to gymnastics as a 15 year-old, and went on to win 22 Olympic, World and European titles. She won three Olympic gold medals in 1964, and four in 1968. (Photo by – / EPU / AFP) (Photo by -/EPU/AFP via Getty Images)
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1968 Code of Points Judging Controversy Olympics WAG

1968: Věra Čáslavská’s Beam Score and the Problems with Judging

Čáslavská’s beam routine during the optionals portion of the (1B) competition caused quite the stir.

Here are the basics:

  • Čáslavská received a 9.65 for her beam routine.
  • The crowd protested for over 10 minutes.
  • Her beam score was raised to a 9.80 after Berthe Villancher, the president of the Women’s Technical Committee, interceded.

There was a lot on the line. These scores counted towards:

  • The team standings
  • The all-around standings, which was the sum of a gymnast’s compulsory and optionals scores
  • Qualifying for event finals
  • A gymnast’s event finals score, which was the average of her compulsory and optionals scores + her event finals score

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and discuss how this one routine illustrated so much of the judging dysfunction that existed in the 1960s.

Čáslavská, 1968 Olympics
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1968 Olympics WAG

1968: The Women’s Compulsories Competition in Mexico City

On Monday, October 21, 1968, the women’s compulsories opened the gymnastics competition at the Olympics in Mexico City.

And, as we’ll see, the crowd was very invested in the competition.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 21: Natalia Kuchinskaya of the Soviet Union competes in the balance beam of the Artistic Gymnastics Women’s Team compulsory during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 21, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)