In July of 1973, after Viktor Klimenko won his second European all-around title, Stadión, a weekly Czechoslovak sports magazine, published a profile on him. It offers details about his early years in the sport, his rivalries within the Soviet team, his coaching changes, his recovery from an Achilles tear that occurred during the 1971 European Championships, and more.
Note: You can read a much shorter profile of the Klimenko brothers from 1972 here.
In 1973, one of the first profiles of the Károlyis was printed. It wasn’t published in the main sports newspaper in Romania, Sportul. Rather, it was published in A Hét, a Hungarian-language newspaper out of Bucharest. (Both Károlyis are ethnic Hungarians.)
The profile in A Hét calls the couple “heroes” and includes the basic contours of the Károlyis’ backstory, which differ from those found in a profile of Comăneci published weeks earlier in Sportul. In that profile, Károlyi suggests that he discovered Comăneci on a playground, a myth that has been repeated for decades. But here, in this Hungarian-language interview, the writer makes it clear that the Károlyis inherited already established groups of gymnasts when they moved to Oneşti. Though, Comăneci’s first coach, Marcel Duncan, is never mentioned by name.
The profile of Károlyi in A Hét was printed after Comăneci’s early success in 1973 — after she had won all the golds at the 1973 Romanian International as well as the all-around during a dual meet with the Soviets. And according to Károlyi, the best was yet to come. In fact, he insinuated that Comăneci might become the first woman to compete a triple twist. (Japan’s Kenmotsu had attempted the skill at the 1970 World Championships and 1972 Olympics.)
A short sidenote: In this article, we find out an interesting tidbit: Márta Károlyi’s first name in Hungarian is reportedly Gyöngyi. (Erőss is her maiden name.) It was not uncommon for Hungarians to use alternate given names. For example, Valerie Nagy, a long-time member of the Women’s Technical Committee, did not use her Hungarian given name (Jenőné) outside of Hungary.
Long before the 1976 Olympics, the Romanian press — in both Romanian and Hungarian — started to print interviews with and profiles of Nadia Comăneci.
Below, you’ll find translations of a small collection of interviews and profiles from 1972 and 1973. Each one is interesting in its own right. For example, you can find an early comparison with Olga Korbut — something that would continue to crop up in the press for years after. In that same article, the author questions if too much was expected of the prodigy at too young of an age — an ongoing question in the sport of gymnastics. There’s even an article titled, “We should not expect everything only from Nadia Comăneci.”
All in all, the articles portray Comăneci as a wunderkind, whose skill is routinely described in supernatural, if not religious, terms, with the word “miracle” being routinely employed to describe her accomplishments.
In January of 1973, shortly after the 1972 Chunichi Cup, Stadión, a Czechoslovak weekly, ran a profile of Karin Janz. In addition to a summary of her career, it included interviews with Janz, her father, and her coaches. Interestingly, it suggested that Janz intended to continue competing through the 1976 Olympics, which, in the end, she did not do. As the article noted, she was busy with her medical studies.
For her father, this was Janz’s greatest achievement: “It meant more to me than all her medals when she enrolled in medical school because she stayed true to her childhood dream.”
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.
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…
Note: The articles below will mention Rigby’s weight and eating habits. Rigby would later discuss her struggles with bulimia.
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.
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.
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.
In 1972, the Hungarian team won bronze at the Olympics, yet little has been written about the team’s gymnasts in the English language. To give some personality to the names in the record books, I’ve translated newspaper profiles of three gymnasts: Ilona Békesi, Krisztina Medveczky, and Monika Császár.
Ilona Békési was indisputably the top gymnast on the team. At the 1971 Hungarian Nationals, she swept every event, and as you’ll see, she was often portrayed as a tenacious gymnast with great willpower. Krisztina Medveczky was depicted as the young, wide-eyed teammate who was only 14 when she made the team. And Monika Császár was a humble gymnast who did not enjoy the spotlight.