Friday, July 13, 2012
History Lesson: 1976 Olympic Team Finals
If you've never watched the 1976 Olympic Team Optionals, you're missing out in life. There was life before Jordyn Wieber and Beth Tweddle. Frankly, it was better. Though the level of difficulty is not the same, the gymnastics is even more compelling. There is such artistry and intention with what the gymnasts performed: for better or for worse.
The political angles are particularly fascinating. Let's cut the shit: Ludmilla Tourischeva was lucky to win after 1972. Olga Korbut was a better gymnast in terms of skill level. She was lucky the powers that be favored her over her fabulous headcase teammate. Thanks to the Soviets exploiting young Olga like an Olsen twin, Tourischeva was able to keep going and defeat her for the 1974 World AA Title despite competing in a sport that was passing her by. Tourischeva is a lovely gymnast whom we are 'supposed' to adore and revere, yet her routines were not at the level of her teammates in Montreal. Tourischeva's Post Munich career was equivalent to a four-year victory lap until that Romanian bitch came along.
Nadia was far and away the best gymnast in Montreal. Watch her change the sport, as the scoreboard only went to devyat devyat pyat. Her desyat routines in team optionals were some of the best pieces of gymnastics ever performed at an Olympic Games. She did not 'Nadia hop' in team optionals. Note how young Martha Karolyi fails to embrace her athlete after she makes Olympic history. In one of sport's most iconic moments, Martha leaves the podium before Nadia exits bars. When Nadia exits, she is embraced by Anca Grigoras. Perhaps perfection isn't enough for Martha? We can't have the girls think they're doing well now. When I watch Nadia, I pay attention to how Kathy Johnson Clarke pointed out in our interview that her movements were technically correct, yet she lacked the perfect extension of her Soviet counterparts.
Another interesting aspect of the competition is that most aficionados will tell you that Teodora Ungureanu was the best performer in the world on floor exercise that year. Note that she does not perform her double back somersault. Is it possible that Teodora was not allowed to perform it in order to prevent outshining Nadia (who was competing a watered-down routine due to an injured ankle)? Note that the judges undermarked her and even kept Ungureanu out of event finals. It was another token medal for Tourischeva, who was beautiful in her day, but was lucky to medal in the All Around over Ungureanu by any standard of measurement. If you've heard Teodora's music before, it is because Geza is apparently quite eco-friendly. Her dance before her second pass is still one of my favorite things along with Kobut's routine from Munich. It warms my icy heart.
Olga Korbut looks like a tired hooker still trying to pull off the little girl act for some bad porn film, but her gymnastics is still impressive. It is difficult to judge her routines, as they have more difficulty, but were also full of mistakes. Olga's bar routine is almost identical to her Munich exercise. That may be an indication of just how limited her training time was.
Elvira Saadi is the dark exotic bitch of the squad and deserves to be revered as such.
Maria Filatova was that year's Olga Korbut without the sparkle.
Svetlana Grozdova was oft-overshadowed, yet lovely.
Nelli Kim is impressive, despite the awful things she has done to the sport. We can forgive her for helping to ensure the right gymnast won the Beijing Olympics.
What are your favorite moments from Montreal?