Svetlana Vasilyevna Khorkina (Russian: Светлана Васильевна Хоркина, born January 19, 1979 in Belgorod, Russia) is a popular Russian gymnast and seven-time Olympic medalist, who is now a deputy at the Russian State Duma. With an unprecedented nine gold, eight silver, and three bronze World Championships medals, she is one of the most successful female gymnasts of her era and has been cited as a fan favorite in various polls in gymnastics magazines. She is also notable because she was able to continue competing and winning medals for more than a decade, participating in three Olympics and three changes to the Code of Points. She won her final World Championships all-around title at the age of 24 in 2003 which tied her with Věra Čáslavská as the second oldest female World Champion, second to Larisa Latynina who won her second World All Around title in 1962 at the age of 27. In her career she won 47 World,Olympic and European medals. She won more medals in major All-Around Championships than any other gymnast — male or female - 10 ( 7 Gold,3 Silver).
Svetlana is known for her expressive dance, extreme difficulty, and innovative routines. She has also been heavily criticized for bad sportsmanship and is notorious for proclaiming herself the winner in events where she did not win Khorkina is known for being a "diva," but has embraced such charges, stating "I don't mind. I wouldn't have been called a diva or a queen if I wasn't creative.
At 1.65 m (5'5"), she was unusually tall for her sport. Known for her long, elegant lines, she was discouraged from gymnastics because of her height, but with the help of her lifelong coach Boris Pilkin, she created new moves to accommodate her height and exploit her strengths. She has an unprecedented 8 moves named after her in the Artistic Gymnastics Code of Points. Her most successful apparatus was the uneven bars, where she won a total of two Olympic and five World Championships titles between 1995 and 2001. She was also the first gymnast to win three all-around titles at the World Championships. Svetlana won at least one gold medal at every World Championships and Olympic Games between 1995 and 2003.
Svetlana won her first senior international medals at the 1994 World Championships in Brisbane: a silver medal on vault introducing a round-off ½-on, piked Cuervo off skill; and another silver on uneven bars (her routine included a Markelov release, to be named the 'Khorkina' for women's event).
She was even more successful at the European Championships later that year. Here, she tied for silver in the all-around with teammate Dina Kochetkova and won bars outright. She also competed at the Goodwill Games and Team World Championships that year. Her first All-Around win came at the 1995 European Cup, where she also won medals on vault, uneven bars and in the floor exercise. She was expected to be a top contender for All-Around gold at the World Championships later that year. She omitted a triple twist in her floor exercise instead pulling off only a double. This resulted in low scoring for the routine, but solid performances on beam and vault and a stellar showing on the bars helped her to clinch a silver medal behind Ukrainian Lilia Podkopayeva. In the uneven bars final, Khorkina won the gold medal with an incredible 9.90, beating Mo Huilan of China into second place. This was the first of many world titles to come.
Prior to the Olympics, Svetlana retained both her World and European titles on bars, and also helped the Russians to team silver at the European Championships in Birmingham, as well as taking bronze on vault. A fall from beam in the all-around, prevented her from medalling finishing 6th overall, not the first time this would happen to Svetlana.
Thanks to her recent successes, she was considered to be a top contender for the All-Around gold going into the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA, and the Russian team was looking stronger than it had since the break-up of the USSR. However, the competition proved to be a disappointment both for her and for the Russian team. Svetlana and the other more experienced members of the team, Rozalia Galiyeva and Dina Kotchetkova, performed strongly, but the younger athletes made several mistakes, seemingly overwhelmed by both the intense noise from the crowd and the strong performances from the US team. There was to be no consolation in the All-Around. She performed solidly on floor, beam and vault, but dropped out of contention for a medal when she fell from the uneven bars on a clear underswing half-turn transition from the low bar to high bar, a skill named after her; she finished in 15th place. However, she saved her Olympics by winning the gold on bars, much to her delight, and took the only gold for the Russian women's gymnastics team in Atlanta.
Svetlana became the one to watch, with long lean lines and top acrobatic and execution skills. Her physical glamor of blonde hair and grey eyes competed with her emotional ambitions and intensely patriotic but forthright personality.
Like her compatriot Aleksei Nemov, Svetlana's performances over the next four years were uneven. Svetlanamight perform solidly or accede to the pressure that felled many other gymnasts. Scoring was a hot topic. In the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, changes in the Code of Points were expected to negatively affect her, but she clinched her first world all-around title after a stellar finish on the bars, earning her the highest score of the championship. She beat Olympic vault champion Simona Amânar into second place, a scenario that was also repeated in the 1998 European Championships.
In the two years after winning the world title, she tempered excellence with occasional inconsistency. Yet her skills were difficult and innovative in all events, especially on the uneven bars and balance beam. On the bars, she continued to dominate; she was soon nicknamed the "Queen of the Bars".
Svetlana won the European All-Around title in 1998, but faltered during the All-Around in the Goodwill Games. She entered the 1999 World Championships as a favorite, but finished well out of the medals after a disaster on beam. The Russian team as a whole could not stick a gold medal performance and to make things worse, the Russian team lost the gold medal when Khorkina stepped off the beam in the final performance of the last rotation. She continued her winning streak on bars, however, winning her fourth consecutive world title.
2000 Olympic GamesEdit
Svetlana entered the 2000 Sydney Olympics in Sydney, Australia as the favorite for the All-Around title. Despite her disappointment in Tianjin, she had retained her European all-around title and had beaten most of the gymnasts who could rival her for the all-around title. After preliminaries in the Olympics, she held a large lead on the pack. She unveiled a very difficult vault that had never been seen before — not even in practice. She stuck the vault — a Khorkina II — in the team competition. She also performed well in the floor exercise and uneven bars, qualifying to both event finals. Her score did allow her to qualify for the Balance Beam final, but was unable to compete in the final as she was the third highest Russian in qualifications behind Lobaznyuk and Produnova — only two gymnasts per country may compete in the event finals. The rest of her team were also successful in preliminaries, beating world champions Romania comfortably, and the stage seemed set for Russian glory.
However, they had a nightmare in the team finals. She fell from bars, Elena Produnova sat down her vault, and disastrously both Elena Zamolodchikova and Yekaterina Lobaznyuk fell from the beam. The first three errors were not entirely disastrous, as at that time the lowest score on every apparatus was dropped, so one fall alone did not ruin a team's chances. Still, while the less renowned gymnasts on the team managed solid scores, it was not enough. Despite a near perfect floor rotation to wind up the competition, the Russians finished 0.2 behind Romania. Without the errors, they would have been comfortably ahead, which would have given Russia their first ever team title in women's gymnastics. Though it was the beam that really took Russia out of the running, had Svetlana hit bars and received the same score as she did in event finals, the Russians would have taken the title by a mere five thousands of a point. The initial errors hurt the Russian squad's chemistry and caused finger pointing on who was to blame for losing the team title. This set her against the rest of her teammates, who spoke to and consoled each other but ignored her. Svetlana removed her silver medal as soon as she stepped down from the podium. For the second Olympics running, her team were bitterly disappointed with their silver.
Before the All-Around competition began, the vault was accidentally set 5 cm (2 inches) too low—highly significant in a sport where the success of an element rests on spatial awareness and very small margins. A number of gymnasts made uncharacteristic errors, including Elise Ray and Annika Reeder, the latter being too injured even to continue. Svetlana complained about the vault to an Australian official after the warm-up but was ignored. It was not until Australian Allana Slater echoed Svetlana's sentiments in the next rotation that the error was corrected. She had been in the lead after the first rotation, but came to the mis-measured vault in the second and crashed on her first attempt. Psychologically devastated by this, she then fell in her signature apparatus, the uneven bars. Shortly afterward, she was formally informed that the height of the vault had been corrected, and these who were affected were allowed to perform their vaults again, but their scores on the other apparatus would stand. As that would still leave her out of the running for a medal, let alone the All-Around title, Svetlana declined the opportunity and finished 10th, storming out of the area in tears. Her scores on bars and vault from the preliminaries, plus what she received on beam and floor in the all-around, would easily have won her the Olympic all-around title. In several interviews following the Olympics, she referred to the incident as a "black spot in my soul".
That competition saw another great upset; Viktoria Karpenko entered the final rotation in the lead but a fall during the floor exercise dropped her to 12th. The Romanians initially swept the All-around podium, with Andreea Răducan, Simona Amânar, and Maria Olaru finishing in the top three. Răducan was stripped of her gold after a positive drug test, due to being administered a banned cold medicine, and Amânar was officially named the 2000 Olympic All-Around champion, though she herself has never accepted this and gave her gold medal to Raducan. The cold medication was quietly removed from the list of banned substances a few years later. As of 2010 it is back on the list.
After these crushing disappointments, both Svetlana and her Russian teammates bounced back in event finals. In a tense and emotionally charged competition, Svetlana narrowly retained her bars title. Once again she beat a Chinese athlete into second place, this time edging Ling Jie by a narrow margin. She also won a silver on floor behind teammate Elena Zamolodchikova.
She stayed competitive as she aimed for a spot in a third Olympic Games. She appeared at the 2001 World Championships and won the All-Around title as well as the vault, and continued her winning streak on the uneven bars. With 5 consecutive World titles and 2 Olympic titles, she was now the most accomplished gymnast ever, male or female, on a single apparatus. From 1995 to 2001, she had won every World and Olympic title on the bars.
Svetlana won the European All-Around title in 2002. She beat Verona van de Leur of the Netherlands despite crashing her vault. Many including commentator and former USA Olympic gymnast Bart Conner felt that Van De Leur should have won, and that Khorkina only won due to favouritism from judges.
In 2003, she admitted that gymnastics took its toll on her body, that she had begun to "feel her age", but vowed to return to the Olympics for a third time. At the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, California she became World All-Around champion for a third time, a feat that had never been accomplished by any woman.
2004 Olympic GamesEdit
She went into the 2004 Athens Olympics as one of the favorites and her last Olympic games. Somewhat underpar in prelims, nonetheless she qualified to the all-around and bars finals. In the team competition, her solid performances helped Russia to a surprise bronze, and their delight at this result was in stark contrast to the reaction to the silver at the two previous Games (the 1996 and 2000 Russian teams were considered contenders for the gold, while the 2004 squad was not as strong).In the all-around competition, she won silver behind the American Carly Patterson. She had been leading after two events, but wobbled on beam and an incomplete triple spin on floor, in addition to the fact that Patterson's floor exercise and beam routines had higher difficulty, allowed Patterson to move ahead and take the title. In a press conference after the medal ceremony she claimed that Patterson only won because she was American before stating that this was only a joke and that she, was still Olympic champion. It is unclear whether Svetlanameant that she was the rightful champion of the 2004 all-around, or was referring to the fact that she was the reigning bars champion after her victory in Sydney. However, in a later interview with a Russian newspaper, Izvestia, Svetlana claimed that Patterson's win was 'fixed' and that it had been decided in advance, citing the lengthy delay in posting her vault score whilst judges conferred.