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1971 European Championships USSR WAG

1971: An Interview with Lazakovich and Tourischeva before the European Championships

Just days before the 1971 European Championships, Nedelia, a weekly illustrated newspaper, ran an interview with Tamara Lazakovich and Ludmilla Tourischeva. (By the way, Lazakovich quit gymnastics, and the coach had to convince her to come back.)

In the same issue, another article looked at the state of Soviet gymnastics, comparing Lazakovich’s and Tourischeva’s distinct styles: “Wave and stone, poetry and prose, ice and fire — Tourischeva and Lazakovich.”

In addition, the article lamented that 13-year-old Nina Dronova could not participate in the European Championships due to her age, and it worried that she might tire of gymnastics before she had her chance to shine on the international stage.

Reminder: At the 1970 FIG Congress, the women’s artistic gymnastics delegates voted to lower the competitive age to 14.

What follows is a translation of the article on the state of Soviet gymnastics, as well as the interview with Lazakovich and Tourischeva (Nedelia, October 11, 1971).

Ludmilla Tourischeva, 1970 World Championships
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1971 Hungary MAG WAG

1971: Ilona Békési Wins Every Event at Hungarian Nationals

In 1971, Ilona Békési was a rising star in the European gymnastics community, and at the 1971 Hungarian Masters Championships, she won gold in every event. One year later, she would lead the Hungarian women’s team to a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.

Note: Békési and the Hungarian women often get overlooked in English-language histories of gymnastics. So, this is the first of many posts that will provide a glimpse into Hungarian gymnastics in the early 1970s.

Datum: 31.08.1972 Copyright: imago/Pressefoto Baumann Ilona Bekesi (Ungarn);
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1971 Japan MAG WAG

1971: The “Japan vs. Europe” Competition

In a competition advertised as “Japan vs. Europe” in Bern, Switzerland, the Japanese men and women were supposed to compete against Europe’s best gymnasts. In the end, the marketing overpromised. Only some of the top European gymnasts competed. Notably absent were the Soviets and East Germans.

Nevertheless, there was some excitement. On the men’s side, Kato Sawao, the 1968 all-around gold medalist, returned to competition after an Achilles tear. On the women’s side, Ilona Békési had a breakout performance, even after the uneven bars collapsed literally on top of her.

Reminder: This naming convention would be quite common at competitions like “The USSR vs. the World.”

Hirashima Eiko (Japan)
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1971 MAG USA USSR WAG

1971: The USSR vs. the USA

In 1969, the United States Gymnastics Federation invited the Soviet Union to its World Cup, but the Soviet Union did not attend. In 1971, the winds changed, and the Soviet Union traveled to the U.S. for dual meets at Penn State and Temple University.

What follows are remarks on the competition at Penn State (February 5 and 6, 1971).

Left to Right: Sikharulidze, Voronina, Tourischeva
Source: Madamoiselle Gymnast, March/April 1971

Note: It should be noted that this gymnastics competition was not the first sporting event between the two countries during the Cold War. In 1962, for example, there was a U.S. vs. USSR track and field dual meet.

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1970 WAG World Championships

1970: The Women’s Competition at the World Championships

The 1970 World Championships are often overshadowed by Čáslavská and Kuchinskaya’s rivalry in 1968 and by Korbut’s pyrotechnics in 1972. But the competition in Ljubljana was exciting in its own right.

First, there was the changing of the guard. Czechoslovakia was once the Soviet Union’s biggest rival. But East Germany assumed that position in 1970, and at one point in the competition, it seemed like East Germany might win team gold.

Second, the all-around competition was thrilling. The title was Karin Janz’s to lose, and well, unfortunately, she ended up losing it during the final rotation.

Let’s take a look at what happened…

Turn-Weltmeisterschaft in Ljubljana, Siegerehrung Mannschaft, UdSSR auf Platz 1, v.li.: Sinaida Woronina, Larissa Petrik, Ljubow Burda, Tamara Lasakowitsch, Ljudmila Turischtschewa, Olga Karasewa
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1970 Compulsories MAG WAG World Championships

1970: The Compulsory Routines for the World Championships in Ljubljana

What were the compulsory routines for the World Championships in Ljubljana?

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there aren’t videos of the routines on YouTube. But in this post, you can find the English text and drawings for both the men’s and women’s compulsories.

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1970 Code of Points WAG

1970: The Women’s Code of Points

In 1970, the Women’s Technical Committee published a new version of the Code of Points. Many of the rules had already been in place in the 1968 Code of Points (e.g. only four judges per apparatus instead of the previous norm of five judges per apparatus).

The major change in the English version was the inclusion of stick figure drawings. Let’s take a look at the Code.

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1969 European Championships Romania WAG

1969: Romania’s “Re-Launch” after Skipping the Mexico City Olympics

In 1968, Romania didn’t send any gymnasts to the Olympic Games ostensibly out of fear of poor performance. In a column for the Romanian newspaper Sportul, Elena Leușteanu, a three-time Olympic bronze medalist in gymnastics, explained that the decision was both a “discreet gesture” and a “diplomatic tactic.”

Our non-participation in gymnastics was actually a discreet gesture and a diplomatic tactic. Discreet gesture — because, by not participating, we were acknowledging, in a way, that the value of our opponents is higher than ours and would have not suited us to make it official, especially in a competition in which a kind of opinion is developed that can be harmful for us for at least two years, if not four years, before the next Olympic competition. Diplomatic tactic — because although we have genuine assets, recognized even at the “Olympic Hope Competition,” their maturation is planned for the next 3-4 years. I think this is the reason that would suit us best and explain our intention to return to the arena of major competitions only when we have a team that can and knows how to keep and conquer new positions aimed at raising the prestige of our gymnastics.

Sportul, March 7, 1969

Neprezentarea noastră la gimnastică a fost de fapt un gest discret și o tactică diplomatică. Gest discret — pentru că prin neparticipare recunoșteam, într-un fel, că valoarea adversarilor este mai bună decît a noastră și acest lucru nu ne-ar fi convenit să-l oficializăm mai ales într-o competiție în care se formează un fel de opinie care ne poate fi dăunătoare cel puțin doi ani înainte, dacă nu patru ani, pînă la viitoarea întrecere olimpică, tactică diplomatică , pentru că deși avem valori autentice, recunoscute chiar la „Concursul speranțelor olimpice“, maturizarea lor este planificată în următorii 3—4 ani. Acesta cred că este motivul care ne-ar prinde cel mai bine și explica de fapt intenția de a reveni în arena marilor concursuri numai atunci cînd vom avea o echipă care să poată și să știe a păstra și cuceri noi poziții menite să ridice prestigiul gimnasticii noastre.

At the 1969 European Championships, the Romanian gymnasts did, in fact, conquer “new positions” — at least compared to recent history. Rodica Apăteanu finished eighth, and Felicia Dornea, the youngest competitor in the competition, finished twelfth. Their finishes were a marked improvement over the 1967 Europeans, where the top Romanian gymnast — Elena Ceampelea — finished seventeenth.

The Romanian press struck an optimistic note after the 1969 Women’s European Championships, calling the gymnasts’ performances a “good omen” for the future. At the same time, there was a bit of blunt criticism, as we will see in the column below.

So what? Why does this matter? It’s important to take the temperature in 1969 so that we can track the rise of Romanian women’s gymnastics from no participation in 1968 to team silver in 1976.

Rodica Apăteanu, 1969
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1969 Japan MAG USSR WAG

1969: Olga Korbut’s Win at the Japan vs. USSR Dual Meet

At the 1969 European Championships, Mikhail Voronin was looking ahead to the competition between Japan and the Soviet Union. However, he didn’t end up competing in the meet.

But you know who did compete? 14-year-old Olga Korbut.

And you know who won the meet? Olga Korbut.

Let’s take a look at what happened and watch some of her routines…

Länderkampf BR Deutschland, UdSSR und Kanada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Lyudmila Turishcheva (li.) und Olga Korbut (beide UdSSR) Countries struggle BR Germany USSR and Canada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd Lyudmila Turishcheva left and Olga Korbut both USSR

Note: This photo is not from 1972 — not the 1969 dual meet with Japan.
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1969 European Championships WAG

1969: Karin Janz Dominates at the Women’s European Championships

Gymnasts from nineteen countries traveled to Landskrona, Sweden to participate in the European Championships on Saturday, May 16, 1969 and Sunday, May 17, 1969.

The stars of the 1968 Olympics — Čáslavská, Petrik, Voronina, Kuchinskaya — did not attend (or had retired), which gave 17-year-old Karin Janz a chance to shine and win four of the five gold medals. 

Datum: 23.05.1969 Copyright: imago/Werner Schulze Karin Janz (DDR) während des Trainings; Quadrat, Geräteturnen 1969, Kunstturnen