Edvard Mikaelian was part of the Soviet teams that finished second at the 1972 Olympics and 1974 World Championships. In the lead-up to the Munich Olympics, he finished sixth at the USSR Championships and fourth at the USSR Cup. At the Olympics, he tied for 20th in the all-around.
The following interview, printed in the Czechoslovak weekly Stadión, fleshes out the character of one of the lesser-known members of the Soviet men’s team. It portrays him as a trendy, fashionable citizen of the world, who loved both ballet and American rock and roll, including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and, of all things, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
Note: This profile includes an anecdote that would no longer be socially acceptable to print today.
The USSR Championships were the first major domestic challenge for the Soviet gymnasts on the road to Munich, and they were full of surprises.
Nikolai Andrianov, who was third at the 1971 European Championships, won the all-around, defeating both Voronin and Klimenko. But on the second day of competition, which didn’t count toward his all-around total, he found himself sitting on the parallel bars.
And Ludmilla Tourischeva finally won the all-around title at the USSR Championships. Yes, she had won both the European and World all-around titles before she won the USSR Championships. (She had won the USSR Cup in 1969 and 1971.) She, too, had a major error during the competition.
Afterward, the Soviet media produced video profiles of both champions. You can find the videos, transcripts, and translations below.
At the 1971 European Championships, Nikolai Andrianov finished third behind Viktor Klimenko (first) and Mikhail Voronin (second). One year later, the momentum had changed. Not only did Andrianov beat Klimenko and Voronin; he dominated the competition, winning by 1.70 points. (To be fair, Klimenko was still recovering from an Achilles tear that happened on floor during warm-ups at the European Championships.)
That said, there were still plenty of mistakes that needed to be fixed before the Munich Olympics, and Andrianov was not immune to the falling contagion that spread throughout the gym in Kyiv. As one newspaper put it, “Kolya Andrianov was sitting on parallel bars, as if on a fence, and smiling in a childish way, as if he was not a master of international class.”
So, here’s the coverage of the men’s competition at the 1972 USSR Championships.
Note: You can read a preview of the competition here.
The USSR Championships were early in the 1972 competitive season, and as one would expect, Soviet gymnasts were not in top form. Tourischeva and Lazakovich had problems with their compulsory beam routines. Olga Korbut’s problems on bars continued; she hit her feet on a glide swing during the compulsory bar routine.
Nevertheless, despite the problems, Polina Astakhova, who would be on the floor with the Soviet gymnasts in Munich, had “a quite positive general impression.”
Below, you can find the results, as well as Sovetsky Sport’s coverage of the women’s competition at the 1972 USSR Championships.
An interesting tidbit: Tourischeva performed two different floor routines during the USSR Championships. One routine was to “Glory” by Glinka. The other was to a song from the 1944 German movie The Woman of My Dreams. She would use the latter in Munich.
Another tidbit: Elvira Saadi was called “The Panther” by the French, and her arm choreography was her signature as was her ability to feel the “subtleties of the tragic jester’s soul” while performing to Rachmaninoff’s “Polichinelle.”
Note: You can read a preview of the competition here.
In the lead-up to the 1972 Olympics, the first big test for Soviet gymnasts was the USSR Championships, held in Kyiv at the end of March and the beginning of April.
Tourischeva and Lazakovich were the clear favorites on the women’s side, but people were eager to see if gymnasts from the 1968 Olympics like Karaseva and Voronina could hang on. Dronova, another aspirant for the Olympic Team, was still recovering from an injury.
There were three clear frontrunners on the men’s side: Klimenko, Voronin, and Andrianov.
Here’s a short preview of the competition.
Reminder: The USSR Championships and the USSR Cup were two separate competitions. Both competitions were held in the lead-up to the 1972 Olympics.
Note: Korbut is not mentioned in the article. In her autobiography My Story, Korbut posits that Stanislav Tokarev, the author of this article, did not appreciate her gymnastics prior to the Munich Olympics.
In October of 1971, just days after the European Championships, the Soviet Union and the East German gymnasts faced off. The Soviet Union won, and Olga Korbut won the all-around.
A few months later, in March of 1972, the two teams held another dual meet. This time, the East German team won, and Karin Janz won the all-around.
Ludmilla Tourischeva was absent, and reportedly, Olga Korbut had to withdraw due to injury. Nevertheless, the East German press was excited about this victory during an Olympic year, especially the team’s progress on floor exercise.
Many expectations are foisted on the children of Olympic gold medalists. Albert Azaryan’s son, Eduard, was no exception. Already in 1970, there were media stories about Azaryan’s 11-year-old son.
Albert Azaryan was best known for his performances on rings, an event he won at the 1954 World Championships, the 1955 European Championships, the 1956 Olympic Games, the 1958 World Championships, and the 1960 Olympic Games.
Though Eduard did not end up winning as many major titles as his father, he was part of the Soviet team that won silver at the 1978 World Championships and gold at the 1980 Olympic Games.
Here’s an article from 1970 on the father-son duo.
Zinaida Voronina (née Druzhinina) and Mikhail Voronin were a gymnastics power couple. When they had a child in 1969, it was an exciting event in the sports world. The press was buzzing with questions, such as: What would the child of two Olympic gymnastics champions be like? Certainly, he would be a gymnast, right? And would Zinaida be able to get back into shape in time for the 1970 World Championships?
Let’s take a look at some of the excitement and speculation surrounding the Voronin family in 1970, both in the Soviet and Czechoslovak media.
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  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.
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.