Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering the 1983 Worlds

The 1983 World Championships were a turning point in the sport of gymnastics.  With upgrades to the equipment, the defection of the Karolyi's to America and the retirements of legends from the late '70s,  the sport was emerging from a period of transition.  Skill innovations were abound at these worlds, yet the difficulty was matched by impressive displays of choreography and quality.  It is amazing to imagine just how competitive the Americans would've been with Mary Lou Retton and Diane Durham.  Bela kept them home as they were not yet ready to win individually, though they surely would've aided the American team into being more of a contender.

This was a time when state-sponsored sports program ruled the day, as evinced of the strength of the Soviets, Romanians, Bulgarians, East Germans and Chinese.  The Americans were not on an equal playing field (especially without their stars), but Kathy Johnson Clarke and Julianne McNamara were formidable gymnasts venerated by the rest of the world.  This was a time when compulsories fueled the beauty and grace the sport was known for.  The deterioration of the sport from its foundation is striking when watching these videos.  These were days to remember.

The beautiful Tatiana Frolova.

Olga Mostepanova on the ascent of her legendary career.  Note that she performed the Onodi years before Henrietta, who knew the skill as the Mostepanova.

The innovative Albina Shushova did a back tuck full on beam years ahead of everyone else.  She was only second up in the lineup.

My favorite member of the squad was the immaculate, stunning, breath-taktingly beautiful Natalia Ilienko.  The quality of her work is simply unmatched.  Though she was not a true star on the team, her talent led her to be a key team member at the 1981 and 1983 World Championships and 1984 Olomouc Games.  Her beam displays hints of combinations that we are only beginning to see realized in the sport.

The powerful and dramatic (and yes, innovative) Natalia Yurchenko.  If she had a penny for every time someone competed her vault...  I live for her Tkatchev+Deltchev combination on bars.

Olga Bicherova was the reigning World and World Cup AA Champion.  She did not repeat her individual success, but she was a vital member of the team.  Her vaults were incredible.

The Romanians returned to form without Bela Karolyi.

THE Hana Ricna on bars.

Wu Jiani

It is outrageous how lowballed Ma Yanhong was for this exercise, especially considering Ricna also earned a 9.850 for a routine where her leg hit the bar.

Julianne McNamara's bars Pre-Bela.  It is amazing how much stronger, more confident and powerful she became in '84, but the technique was all there to begin with.

Kathy Johnson Clarke's Floor

Boriana Stoyanova

Maxi Gnauck was great.  It is debatable if she was really better than Ma Yanhong on bars overall, but this was an excellent exercise with more amplitude, swing and energy than Ma displayer.


  1. Lovely. Watched the whole thing wasted an hour or so. Maxi Gnuck Bars are very modern in comparison to the other gymnasts.

  2. Julianne's bars were a LOT easier in 1984 than these. That might be why she appeared so much stronger and confident in '84

    1. Bela's insane conditioning had a lot to do with it as well. Her routine was pure flash, but you cannot deny the impact of his conditioning program and added training program. She had the technique and swing, the fitness and confidence put her over the top.

  3. Loved Julianne McNamara--that plange (sp?) in her beam routine was unreal (along with the one-armed handstand). I liked how, back in those days, there were a lot more, uh, BALANCE elements in beam. Not that the tricks these days don't require balance, but holding I guess the display of continued balance on the slower elements is what I appreciated.