1972 Interviews & Profiles USA

1972: Profiles of Joan Moore, Collector of Mice

Today’s gymnastics fans may know Joan Moore as the mother of Ashleigh Gnat, a standout on the LSU gymnastics team. But in 1972, she was one of the best tumblers in the world, opening her floor routine with a high double full and doing a front layout — a rare skill that Japanese men’s artistic gymnast Nakayama Akinori also competed.

The Philadelphia newspapers wrote a lot about Moore, and their profiles raised perennial questions:

  • How can elite athletes balance school with training?
  • How do parents manage their children’s gymnastics careers?
  • Should the U.S. government do more to sponsor elite athletes?
  • How should gymnasts be educated?
  • How many stuffed mice does Joan Moore have?

Enjoy these profiles of Moore from before and after the Munich Olympics.

Kim Chace, Debbie Hill, Joan Moore, Roxanne Pierce, Linda Metheny, Nancy Thies, Cathy Rigby
1972 Interviews & Profiles USA

1972: Profiles of Cathy Rigby

In 1972, Cathy Rigby was the “it girl” in the United States. Not only had she won a silver medal on beam at the 1970 World Championships; the American public and media were enamored with her (and her looks). The Tribune out of San Luis Obispo printed:

Cathy Rigby looks more like a windup doll than a world-class athlete. She has a pixie face, large brown eyes, and her blond hair is usually tied in bows. Furthermore, she is only 4’11”, and weighs a mere 92 pounds, a stature that earns her the title “Peanut” from her coach, Bud Marquette, of the Southern California Acro Team of Long Beach. At 19, Cathy may be the finest all-around female gymnast in the world.

May 6, 1972

Famously, Rigby posed nude for Sports Illustrated in 1972 — a move that received backlash from both the FIG and her fellow teammates on the Olympic team. Linda Metheny reportedly was not pleased with the photos. The Dispatch out of Moline, IL, wrote:

There is even an interesting little squabble taking place among members of the United States women’s gymnastics team. Linda Metheny of Champaign, Ill., and Cathy Rigby of California are vying for the honor of being known as the nation’s outstanding female gymnast, and they aren’t friendly. When Miss Rigby’s nude photo appeared in a gymnastics pose in Sports Illustrated magazine this weekend, Miss Metheny — and presumably others — took offense.

At least that isn’t a political issue, and the gals may have scratched at each other and fought that issue out on the weekend plane ride to Germany.

The Dispatch, August 21, 1972

Even before the photos came out, the topics of nudity and gymnasts’ bodies were discussed in the same breath. In an article about the U.S. women’s performance in a dual meet with Japan, Ginny Coco stated:

“You want all the curves to be there in the right places,” said Mrs. Ginny Coco, women’s coach for the meet here, “but not at the level Hugh Hefner might want for the Playboy image. Voluptuous girls don’t win in gymnastics. You want lean, strong girls, the race horse type.”

Warren Times-Mirror and Observer, Feb. 3, 1972

When the articles focused on Cathy Rigby’s gymnastics rather than her appearance, they tended to portray her as a fearless trickster, who had a knack for learning skills quickly.

Here’s a small collection of profiles on Cathy Rigby from 1972…

Munich, Germany – 1972: Cathy Rigby competing in the Women’s gymnastics event at the 1972 Summer Olympics / Games of the XX Olympiad, Olympic Sports Hall. (Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Note: The articles below will mention Rigby’s weight and eating habits. Rigby would later discuss her struggles with bulimia.

1972 Czechoslovakia MAG WAG

1972: The Results from Czechoslovakia’s National Championships

After World War II, Czechoslovakia was one of the powerhouses in women’s gymnastics. But in the lead-up to the Munich Olympics, they had dropped in the rankings. At the 1966 World Championships, they finished first. At the 1968 Olympics, they finished second. Then, at the 1970 World Championships, they were third. Nevertheless, Czechoslovakia was one of the favorites for bronze in Munich.

On the men’s side, the team had finished 4th at both the 1966 World Championships and the 1968 Olympic Games. But they dropped to 9th at the 1970 World Championships, which is where they finished in Munich. (Based on their scores at their national championships, a medal seemed out of the question.)

Here are the results for the 1972 Czechoslovak National Championships.

Zdena Dorňáková, Stadión, No. 38, Sept. 18, 1973
1972 Japan MAG Training WAG

1972: Japan’s Olympic Trials Results and Goals for Munich

Who would make Japan’s men’s team for the Munich Olympics? The gymnastics world couldn’t wait to find out. As a Hungarian newspaper put it, “It is easier to win a gold medal than to get onto the Japanese national team.”

In the end, there were three members of the 1970 World Championship team (Nakayama, Tsukahara, and Kenmotsu), the 1968 Olympic All-Around Champion (Kato), the 1970 University Games All-Around Champion (Okamura), and Kasamatsu, who tied for fourth at the 1972 Riga International and won one of Japan’s qualifying competitions for Munich. 

On the women’s side, the team was aiming for a bronze medal after its disappointing fourth-place finish in Mexico City.

What follows is a translation of the teams’ goals and the results from the selection competitions. This post also includes an article from Hungary on the men’s team selection.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 24: Sawao Kato of Japan competes in the Floor of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Individual All-Around final during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 24, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
1972 Japan Perfect 10

1972: Nakayama Scores a 10 at Penn State

At the beginning of 1972, the Japanese women’s and men’s teams did a tour of the United States. They stopped at San Fernando Valley State College, California State College at Fullerton, Chicago, Temple University, and Penn State. During the final stop, Nakayama Akinori scored a 10.00 on high bar.

Previously, when gymnasts like Čáslavská, Janz, or Zuchold scored 10s at their national championships, the numbers were reported in a tempered manner. But when Nakayama scored a 10.00 at Penn State, hundreds of words were dedicated to this moment in history. In many ways, the reporting on the dual meet in State College, PA, is a preview of the tone and hype that would appear at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. 

So, with no further ado, here’s the article from the Centre Daily Times on January 31, 1972.

Note: Curiously, Gymnast‘s coverage of the 1972 Japanese tour did not mention the 10.00.

Nakayama Akinori, 1970, Ljubljana World Championships
1972 Interviews & Profiles USSR WAG

1972: A Profile of Tamara Lazakovich in Soviet Life

Going into the 1972 Olympics, Tamara Lazakovich was one of the favorites. At the 1971 European Championships, she tied with Ludmilla Tourischeva for all-around gold. In addition, she won gold medals on the uneven bars and balance beam, as well as silver medals on vault and floor exercise. At the time, Berthe Villancher, President of the Women’s Technical Committee, held Lazakovich up as the ideal on beam.

The magazine Soviet Life ran a short profile of Lazakovich before the Olympics. It gives the details of her career.

Note: You can read an interview with Lazakovich here. It gives some interesting details about her career. For example, Lazakovich wanted to quit the sport.

The cover of Soviet Life, August 1972

Author: Lev Kuleshov
Photographs: Sergei Lidov
1972 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR

1972: A Profile of the Klimenko Brothers

In 1971, Viktor Klimenko won the all-around at the European Championships, but he tore his Achilles tendon during warmups the next day. Mikhail Klimenko, his brother, was his coach, and he knew firsthand what it was like to go through a significant injury. While Mikhail would later become known for being Elena Mukhina’s coach, he once was remembered as a junior national champion, who had to quit due to injury. 

What follows is a 1972 profile of the two brothers from Nedelia.

Viktor Klimenko, 1970

1972: Was Olga Korbut Supposed to Be on the Soviet Team in Munich?

If you grew up watching U.S. gymnastics coverage, you might think that Olga Korbut was not supposed to be on the Soviet team in 1972. During an ABC replay of the 1972 Olympics, the commentators remarked:

“She was a last-minute substitute on the Soviet team, replacing Nina Dronova who had broken her wrist. Olga wasn’t even listed in the Russian team biographies.”

A similar remark was printed in Gymnast (now International Gymnast) magazine in an article about the 1972 Chunichi Cup, in which Dronova competed:

The Russians were represented by three girls, Ludmilla Tourischeva, 1st All-Around in Munich, Lyubov Burda, 5th All-Around in Munich, and 14-year-old Nina Dronova who was a member of the USSR Olympic team until she broke her wrist several weeks before the games. She was replaced by Olga Korbut.

Gymnast, February 1973

But is that what happened? The Soviet press told a different story.

November 1-4, 1972. Grodno, Byelorussian SSR, USSR. Three times Olympic Champion in artistic gymnastics Olga Korbut. The exact date of the photograph is unknown. Vitaly Sozinov/TASS PUBLICATION

1972: Korbut and Andrianov Win the USSR Cup

Months earlier, in April, Ludmilla Tourischeva and Nikolai Andrianov won the 1972 Soviet Championships — both with errors. At the 1972 Soviet Cup, Tourischeva had another mistake, and this time, Olga Korbut was able to capitalize on it and win the competition. As for Andrianov, he further cemented his position as the top Soviet gymnast heading into the Olympics.

Below, you’ll find the results, a Soviet video montage, as well as newspaper articles about the competition. I’ve translated full articles so that you can have the experience of a gymnastics fan who was trying to piece together what happened in the pages of the newspaper Izvestiia.

November 1-4, 1972. Grodno, Byelorussian SSR, USSR. Three times Olympic Champion in artistic gymnastics Olga Korbut. The exact date of the photograph is unknown. Vitaly Sozinov/TASS
1972 Hungary Interviews & Profiles MAG

1972: A Profile of Teenage Zoltán Magyar

After the 1972 Olympics, the Hungarian sports newspaper Népsport ran a profile of Zoltán Magyar. It portrays the teenager as an angsty and absent-minded gymnast who sometimes forgets to show up for practice. But it recognizes that Magyar had the potential to become one of the best pommel workers in the world.

Note: For those who don’t know much about pommel horse, Magyar was known for his ability to travel down the pommel horse while touching the saddle of the horse (the leather part between the pommels). It’s challenging to use this part of the horse because you have to lift your legs above the pommel in the front and above the pommel in the back.

So, with no further ado, here’s the profile on Magyar.

Népsport, November 30, 1972