The Original Commentary to “You in Gymnastics”

КОМАНДА МОЛОДОСТИ НАШЕЙ, КОМАНДА, КОТОРУЮ НЕЛЬЗЯ ЗАБЫТЬ…

(Комментарий к документальному фильму, опоздавший, как минимум, на 30 лет)

Считаю возможным загрузить  на мой сайт этот очень важный для советской, российской и мировой гимнастики документальный фильм, и делюсь с моими читателями комментарием к нему:

Владимир Заглада, автор книги “One Coach’s Journey from East to West: the Fall of the Iron Curtain Changed the World of Gymnastics” (USA, 2010)

(This article  written by Vladimir Zaglada and the English Version translated by Margarita Estape was taken by “La Strada di Lena”, a book of Ilaria Leccardi, published in Italy by Bradipolibri (2013). 

THE TEAM OF OUR YOUTH, AN UNFORGETTABLE TEAM…
(Comment on the documentary‘You in Gymnastics’, 30 years later)
by Vladimir Zaglada, author of the book “One Coach’s Journey from East to West:
the Fall of the Iron Curtain Changed the World of Gymnastics” (USA, 2010)
Translated by Margarita Estape

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«Победа в состязаниях и Победа над собой» – этими словами заканчивается один из лучших, на мой взгляд, фильмов о спортивной гимнастике «Ты в Гимнастике». Мне очень повезло: именно тогда в конце 70-х годов теперь уже прошлого века меня привлекали к работе основного состав состава сборной команды СССР по спортивной гимнастике в качестве консультанта по освоению супер сложных элементов группы «ультра-си». Этим и объясняется тот факт, что по ходу действия фильма  я комментирую некоторые, наиболее проблематичные вопросы, всегда вызывавшие интерес, в особенности, со стороны зарубежных специалистов спортивной гимнастики.

Почему так много слез на тренировках нового поколения советских гимнасток!? Ведь они, по сравнению с прошлым составом женской сборной очень маленькие!  Неужели этих маленьких, совсем еще детей, «замучивают» на бесконечных тренировках и тренировочных сборах!? Как писали тогда некоторые журналисты, эту команду и женской то назвать очень трудно. Удивительно, но это факт, что при определении названия моей первой книги, написанной в соавторстве с Татьяной Лисицкой «Вольные упражнения для женщин» (Издательство «Физкультура и Спорт, 1977), в издательстве долгое время решали, как все же назвать это учебное пособие. Назвали все же правильно «для женщин», поскольку не такие уж они были маленькие, как казались, или как это иногда представлялось в зарубежной прессе. И именно эти компактные, мощные и, в то же самое время, очень артистичные  женщины продолжили славные традиции легендарных советских гимнасток Ларисы Латыниной, Полины Астаховой, Софьи Муратовой, Ларисы Петрик, Людмилы Турищевой и многих других.

Действительно, обновление состава советской команды тех лет было очень ощутимо. Именно об этом говорит голос за кадром, подчеркивая молодость и небольшие габариты членов сборной команды, перечисляющий всех тех гимнасток, которые пришли на смену Людмиле Турищевой, Эльвире Саади, Ольге Корбут и многим другим выдающимся гимнасткам, прославившим советскую гимнастику. Справедливости ради, надо отметить, что все те, кто тогда казались маленькими, «подросли» уже в основном составе сборной команды. Но тогда, глядя на невероятно юные лица Натальи Шапошниковой, Елены Давыдовой и Наташи Юрченко и других девчонок, казалось, что сборная команда превратилась в некий  детский сад, с которым работают взрослые дяди и тети, применяя к детям самые взрослые требования. Но это только казалось, поскольку именно эти «дети» прошли раннюю специализированную подготовку, разработанную ведущими советскими специалистами по спорту и медицинскому контролю. Они не просто прошли такую подготовку, они были готовы к взрослым нагрузкам по всем параметрам их физического и умственного развития! Главное, что все они были ЗДОРОВЫ! Ведь именно они находились под постоянным наблюдением специалистов по кардиологии, психиатрии, гигиене и врачебному контролю с использованием самых современных научно-обоснованных методов. Не случайно, наряду с монотонным повторением сложнейших гимнастических трюков, камера неоднократно показывает этих маленьких тружениц в момент их отдыха, обеда в столовой, в минуты личного общения друг с другом, разговоров с их личными тренерами и специалистами, работающими с ними. Твердо заявляю, что команда моей молодости была абсолютно здоровой. Достаточно просто взглянуть на их радостные и улыбающиеся лица, чтобы понять, что гимнастика это самая интересная часть их тогда еще только начинающейся спортивной карьеры.

Об этом говорят и результаты советских гимнасток 70 годов. Ведь среди героев помоста уже тогда были некоторые герои нашего фильма. Их новинки, показанные на мировых помостах, буквально поражали весь гимнастический мир. О каждом участнике этого интересного документального фильма, спортсмене, тренере, руководителе, хореографе и даже аккомпаниаторе можно было бы рассказать намного больше. Эта документальная  лента поистине бесценна. Ведь именно в этом фильме показан внутренний процесс работы с такой сложной и в то же время, очень интересной командой, как женская сборная команда СССР. Весь фильм пронизан добротой и заботой об этих маленьких тружениках большой гимнастики. Да, именно так, я назвал их в своей книге, опубликованной в США, и именно им я посвятил эту книгу. Но сделал я это примерно 30 лет спустя…

Сегодня одной из участниц этого документального фильма  Елены Мухиной уже нет с нами. Ее трагедию знает весь гимнастический мир. Пусть Земля будет ей пухом… Нет с нами и ее тренера, выдающегося тренера современности Михаила Клименко. И он останется в нашей памяти навсегда…

Замечу, что до того, как гимнастический мир узнал имя новой абсолютной чемпионки мира Елены Мухиной и имя ее тренера Михаила Клименко в этом, в этом совершенно не «заказном», документальном фильме, оба эти труженика и героя большой гимнастики показаны с огромным уважением и, главное, с теплом. Звонкий титул у Лены уже тогда был: абсолютная чемпионка Европы! Но ведь все знают, что для СССР все чемпионские титулы начинались с чемпионатов Мира и Олимпийских Игр. Абсолютной чемпионкой мира Елена Мухина стала в 1978 году во французском городе Страсбурге. Я был на этих соревнованиях в числе туристической группы, и видел ее Победу своими собственными глазами. Это было поразительное выступление, и  оно запомнилось мне навсегда! За Олимпиаду пришлось бороться… Чем все это закончилось, знает весь цивилизованный мир. Много всего написано, много порассказано, много правды, но и много откровенной лжи. Поэтому, анализируя сегодня необыкновенный по своей документальности и правдивости фильм, хочу, как непосредственный свидетель создания этой уникальной советской команды, высказать свое личное мнение о двух его героях, как мне кажется, «никогда не стучавших себе в грудь», даже при самых громких Победах. Конечно же, речь идет о Елене Мухиной и Михаиле Клименко. Ведь как-бы не старались авторы и режиссеры документального фильма, снятого незадолго до Чемпионата Мира в Страсбурге (кто знал, что Елена станет Королевой Страсбурга!) показывать работу команды в целом, главные ее персонажи определились по их диалогам. Не буду даже стараться в точности перевести смысл этих диалогов, поскольку совершенно о том же самом могли бы говорить практически все тренеры той команды, которую я называю «команда молодости нашей». Но именно Михаил Клименко, «Клим» как его называли все его друзья и коллеги, обладал огромной внутренней силой, хотя и его мощному для гимнаста телосложению, могли позавидовать даже многие культуристы. Широкоплечий, с очень сильно развитыми мышцами спины, совершенно без каких-либо признаков  хоть какого-нибудь «жирка» на животе, уверенный в себе, но говорящий иногда в скороговорку, поскольку всегда был занят, «Клим» был очень уверен в себе и в том, о чем говорил. Мне посчастливилось довольно много общаться с ним и обсуждать самые актуальные вопросы техники и методики сложных гимнастических упражнений. Не могу сказать, что он во всем со мной соглашался. Чаще всего он говорил: «Поживем, Володенька и увидим, кто прав, а кто ошибается!» Справедливости ради, замечу, что во многих случаях он был прав. Это ему, Михаилу Клименко принадлежат первые практические разработки в области двойного сальто с пируэтом и в целом вся техника взаимодействия гимнаста с опорой в момент выполнения отскоков. Но не его «Климовская» методика, основанная на огромном количестве повторений базовых навыков, при изучении самых сложных элементов современной гимнастики сегодня наиболее важна для нас. Важно понять, как он добивался того, что самое трудное, во что просто невозможно было поверить, становилось выполнимым в его руках? Как он заставлял самого себя и своих учеников поверить в мечту и осуществить эту мечту в невероятно короткие сроки? Дело в том, что усложнение гимнастических упражнений не происходит мгновенно или в одночасье. На это требуются годы, а иногда и десятки лет… Однако, «Клим» старался опередить время и брался за то, что было под силу лишь крепким ребятам. Ведь он сам был великолепным гимнастом, а уж как он тренировал своего брата, Виктора Клименко, знает весь мир. Кто знает, может быть, не надо было торопиться с Леной…? Но выхода у него, как мне кажется, не было. Правильней будет сказать ВЫБОРА! Выход, конечно же, был, но от Олимпиады надо было бы отказаться. И он искал выход, доказывая всем, что Лена – лучшая и должна быть в Олимпийской команде. Но была ли Лена готова к тому, на что решился «Клим» не знает никто, кроме его самого и, конечно же, самой Лены.  Это так и останется за занавесом того выступления Елены Мухиной, которому не суждено было состояться.

Итак, ответа так и не  существует, и я предпочитаю действовать по принципу, «кто старое помянет – тому глаз вон!» Ведь Елена Мухина, с моей точки зрения это один из самых ярких представителей советской школы гимнастики, а Михаил Клименко, пожалуй, самый талантливый тренер современности. Я могу сравнить его по уровню достижений лишь с великим Штукманом, бывшим полной противоположностью «Климу» лишь по внешнему виду и телосложению. Уровень мышления, притязаний и жизненные установки у обоих тренеров, как мне кажется, были совершенно одинаковыми. Добиваться результата, во что бы то ни стало! Открывать новое, и не забывать хорошо забытое старое! О чистоте взаимоотношений между Михаилом Клименко и Еленой Мухиной можно судить по содержанию диалогов фильма, которые являются по существу квинтэссенцией того, что сегодня известно как педагогическая психология. Понятно, что спрашивая Лену, почему она плачет на тренировках, педагог Клименко добивался того, чтобы не просто научить ее не плакать, действуя по принципу известного советского стишка  «Тише, Танечка не плач, не утонет в речке мяч!» Он добивался того, чтобы вселить в Лену уверенность в том, что плакать просто не будет необходимости, поскольку навыки, доведенные до совершенства за счет большого количества повторений, принесут стабильность. Говоря языком психотерапевтов, негатив раскручивался в обратную сторону, приводя психическое состояние гимнастки к исходному состоянию, еще нетронутому неправильными попытками исполнения нового уникального движения. Достаточно вспомнить, что в качестве примера он приводит Надю Команечи, которая не только очаровала весь гимнастический мир, но и показала всему гимнастическому сообществу, что СССР уже не является законодателем моды в гимнастике. Он конечно преувеличивал. Но ставил при этом он лишь одну цель – заставить Лену работать не на уровне прошлых достижений советских гимнасток, а на совершенно другом, можно сказать запредельном (для того времени) уровне. Их диалоги это искренние и совершенно точные уроки психологии взаимоотношений между тренером и спортсменом. Ну, с чем можно сравнить тот факт, что Клименко разговаривая с Леной о слезах на тренировках, в конце концов, допускает их возможность, поскольку, как он сам замечает, «ничто женское гимнасткам не чуждо». Его фраза «ну уж если очень хочется поплакать – поплачь, а может, даже слезами окропи брусья или накладки» звучит очень искренне и очень педагогично. Он не монстр, а она не робот – вот главное, что понимает зритель, просматривая удивительные кадры общения великой гимнастки и великого тренера.

И все же и в ее глазах и в его устремленном куда-то взгляде не читается никакая возможная  трагедия. Я вообще думаю, что трагедии не предсказуемы, а судьба человека это его собственный путь, который предначертан свыше и заложен в его генетический код.   Они верят, что выиграют в этот раз и будут выигрывать еще много, много раз. Во всяком случае, повод для этого был, и, главное, что он был совершенно реальный. И Михаил, и Елена не играют перед камерой, не позируют перед ней и, главное, они не прыгают на глазах у зрителей, выиграв приз газеты «Московские Новости». Для Михаила эти соревнования были лишь отборочным этапом перед главными стартами Олимпийского четырехлетия.

Но все же, почему появляется какое-то щемящее сердце чувство, глядя на лицо Елены Мухиной? Да потому лишь, что, на мой взгляд, она еще при жизни была олицетворением невероятной чистоты и настоящей красоты русской женщины. Той женщины, с которой писали иконы русские иконописцы. Той женщины, фотографию которой хранили советские бойцы на фронтах Великой Отечественной войны, и наконец, той женщины, улыбка которой хоть и бывала редкой, но заставляла радоваться и улыбаться не только своих подруг, но и самого своего лучшего друга и тренера и наставника по жизни, великого «Клима».

Очень жаль, что ее жизнь оборвалась так рано, что она не успела показать себя во всей своей истинной красоте. Считаю, что гимнастическая общественность должна обратиться к русской православной церкви с просьбой канонизировать Елену Мухину, пострадавшую за величие нашей российской культуры. «Святая Елена» должна стать путеводной звездой для всех тех, кто отдает все свои силы, умение и дух во славу российского спорта, православной веры и величие нашей России.

‘Victory at competitions and victory over oneself’- those are the final words of “You in Gymnastics”, one of the best films on artistic gymnastics from my standpoint. I have been very lucky: at the end of the 70s, I was hired to work in the coaching staff of the Soviet national team as a consultant for super-difficult Ultra-C elements. That is why during the documentary– in which I appear alongside many of my colleagues I talk about some of the most problematic issues that are always of interest, especially for foreign specialists in artistic gymnastics.

Why are there so many tears during the training sessions of the new generation of Soviet gymnasts!?They we are kids compared to the previous women’steam! How come those small kids were tortured in long training sessions and at the team joint training? As a few journalists wrote then,it was difficult to say it was a women’s team. When I had to decide on the title of my first book written with Tatiana Lisitskaya ‘Floor Exercise for Women’ (published by Fiz cultural Sport, 1977),the publishing house took their time to agree to it.It was the right title: “…for Women” because they were not as young as they looked,or as the foreign press wrote. Those powerful, strong and, at the same time, artistic women continued the glorious tradition of legendary Soviet gymnasts such as Larisa Latynina, Polina Astakhova, Sofia Muratova, Larisa Petrik, Ludmilla Tourischeva.

In fact, the regeneration of the Soviet team at this time was very obvious. The voice over emphasizes they out hand the small bodies of the national team’s gymnasts who had replaced Lyudmila Tour is cheva, Elvira Saadi, OlgaK or but and others responsible for the glory of Soviet gymnastics.

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To be more precise, we have to say that those who still looked like kids had yet to mature fully as members of the National team. But, then, when you looked at the incredibly young faces of Natalia Shaposhnikova, Еlena Davydova, Natalia Yurchenko and other girls,one had the impression that the national team had be come a kindergarten working with adults who demanded as much from the mas if they were adults. It was only an impression because those “kids” had received early specialized training designed by the best Soviet specialists and controlled by doctors. Not only did they follow this training, they were fully prepared to work the physical and the mental loads!The most important thing was that they were all HEALTHY!They were under the constant control of specialists in cardiology, psychiatric s, hygiene and medicine who applied the most up-to-date scientific methods.Not accidentally, with the monotonous repetition of the most complex gymnastic elements, the camera shows these small workers during their rest, while having lunch in the cafeteria, during their conversation with their personal coaches and the specialists who worked with them. Is that the team of my youth was absolutely healthy. Suffice to look at their joyful and smiling faces to understand that gymnastics was the most important part of their developing sports career.

The results of the Soviet gymnasts of the 70s tell the same story. Among the heroes of the podium we can find some of the protagonists of our documentary film. Their new elements, performed in international arenas, literally amazed the entire gymnastics world. We could tell a lot more about each hero of this interesting documentary – athlete, coach, official, choreographer and even pianist. This film is really precious.It realistically shows the internal working process with this both complex and interesting team,the USSR women’steam. The whole film is full of concern for these“small workers of great gymnastics”.Yes, I dedicated to them my new book published in the USA. Yet, I did this 30 years later…

One of the heroes of the documentary is no longer with us -Elena Mukhina. The whole gymnastics world knows about her tragedy. May she rest in peace… Her coach, Mikhail Klimenko, one of the best of the modern era, is also no longer with us. But he will live in our memories forever…
I want tosay that, before the world knew the names of Elena Mukhina and Mikhail Klimenko,in this film, these two workers and heroes of great gymnastics are portrayed with great respect and love. At that time, Lena was European champion! Everyone knows that for the Soviet Union the major titles were World Championships and Olympics. Elena Mukhina became World All Around Champion in 1978 in Strasbourg (France). I attended the competition with a tourist group, I saw her victory with my very own eyes. It was an amazing performance that I’ll remember forever! She had to fight to be on the Olympic team… All the civilized world knows how it all ended.A lot has been written, explained, a lot of truth, a lot of lies. This is why, analyzing this documentary film that is rare because of its truth, unusual for its truth, I wish, as a direct witness of the creation of this unique Soviet team, to express my personal opinion about two heroes, who never bragged, even after their major victories .Of course, those heroes are Elena Mukhina and Mikhail Klimenko. However hard the authors and directors of the documentary, shot before the Strasbourg World Championship (who could tell that Lena would become the queen of Strasbourg!), tried to present the whole team’s work, the main characters were determined by their dialogues.I won’t try to explain the sense of those dialogues because practically all the coaches of the team that I called “the team of our youth”would say the same. But precisely Mikhail Klimenko, “Klim” a she was called by friends and colleagues, possessed a huge internal strength. Actually, numerous body-builders could envy his broad shoulders, the muscles of his back, the absence of fat on his stomach,his self-confident air, but speaking always very quickly because he was always busy,Klim was very confident of himself and of what he said.I had to talk a lot with him about the most important issues concerning the technique and the methodology of the most complex gymnastics exercises.

I can’t say that we always agreed. Most of ten he said: ‘Volodenka, time will tell who is right and who is wrong!’ To be fair, I’ll say that he was right in most cases. Mikhail Klimenko was the first to work the double back with a full twist(“full-in – back-out”) and the whole technique of the most difficult final elements during advanced tumbling passes (the dismounts). But not his method Klimenko, based on a huge amount of repetitions of the basic elements to learn the most complex elements is today the most important for us.It’s important to under stand how he achieved the most difficult, the most incredible was possible.How did he inspire himself and his athletes to believe in this dream in very short periods of time? Adding complexity to the gymnastics exercises doesn’t happen in an instant or in an hour. Years or even decades are necessary… Nevertheless, “Klim” tried to anticipate time and coped with very hard things as only very strong people can do. He was himself a brilliant gymnast, аnd he was a brilliant coach to his brother, Viktor Klimenko. Who knows, perhaps he shouldn’t have hurried with Lena…? But I think he couldn’t do anything else. More precisely, he had NO CHOICE! The solution was, of course, to give up on the Olympics. He looked for a solution showing everyone that Lena was the best and had to be on the Olympic team. But was Lena ready for what “Klim” had decided? Nobody knows, except him and, of course, Lena herself.This could only be answered by an Elena Mukhina performance which,sadly, could n’t take place.
There is no answer and I rather follow the principle to forget the old things.From my stand point, Elena Mukhina is one of the most brilliant representatives of the Soviet school of gymnastics, аnd Mikhail Klimenko is probably the most talented coach among modern coaches. I only can compare him to the great YuriShtukmann, coach to 1972 Olympian Lyubov Burda,who looked the opposite to Klimenko. The level of thinking and the vital positions of both coaches were absolutely identical. To achieve a result, whatever the price! To discover newt hings, with out forgetting tradition! We can see the purity of the relationship between Mikhail Klimenko and Elena Mukhina from the contents of their dialogues in the documentary, that are thees sense of what is currently known as pedagogical psychology. It’s clear that when he asks Lena why she cries during training, the pedagogue Klimenko is teaching her not just to cry. He instills in Lena the idea that there will not be the need to cry, because habits perfected with a great amount of repetitions, will bring stability. Using the psychotherapists’ language, the negative showed its opposite side, changing the gymnast’s psyche to the starting point, before she tries to perform of anew unique element. We can remember that he gives Nadia Comaneci’s example,who not only conquered the gymnastics world, but proved that the Soviet Union was no longer the creator of trends in gymnastics. Of course, he exaggerated. But he had a goal: he wanted Lena to work not at the level of the past achievement of Soviet gymnasts, but at a different level, extreme for the time. Their dialogues are since re and true lessons of psychology between a coach and an athlete.

Klimenko spoke to Lena about tears during the training session and he thinks they are typical of women’s gymnastics.His sentences sound very since re and pedagogical. He is not a monster, she is not a robot- this is what the spectator understands when watching the amazing images of the relationship between the great gymnast and the great coach.
Nevertheless, we cannot guess the tragedy in the way Lena looks. I think that tragedies are not predictable, the destiny of a person is designed above us and is written in his or her genetic code. They think that they will win next time and will win many, many times. In any case, there was areas on and, above all, this reason was perfectly real. Mikhail and Elena are not acting in front of the camera, they are not posing and, most importantly,they don’t jump for joy in front of the spectators when they win the Moscow News Tournament. For Mukhina this competition was only a stage before the major competitions of the Olympic Cycle.
Yet, why do we have a nagging feeling when we see Elena Mukhina face? Only because, for me, when she was alive, she personified the incredible purity and the true beauty of the Russian woman. Of the woman painted by the Russian authors of icons. Of the woman, whose photograph the Soviet soldiers had with them when they were fighting in the Second World War and, last, of the woman, whose smile, rare as it might be, enlivened not only people around her, but also her best friend, coach and boss, the great“Klim”.
It’s a pity that her life was cut short so soon, that she had no time to appear in all her true beauty. I think that the gymnastics community should ask the Russian Orthodox Church for Elena Mukhina canonization. Mukhina suffered for the grandeur of our Russian culture. ‘Saint Elena’ should become the saint of all those who give their strength, their skills and capacity to the glory of Russian sport, Orthodox faith and the greatness of our Russia.

(This article written by  Vladimir Zaglada  and the English Version translated  by Margarita Estape was taken by “La Strada di Lena”, a book of Ilaria Leccardi, published in Italy by Bradipolibri (2013).

Below I publish a very timely response to one of the tragic cases in Artistic Gymnastics, which I am really happy  to put into the very special page of  my website. I am as usual just include my small preface written in Russian and English languages.

Vladimir Zaglada

НИЧТО В НАШЕЙ ЖИЗНИ НЕ БЫВАЕТ СЛУЧАЙНЫМ…

Ещё одно предисловие к комментарию по поводу трагического случая, потрясшего мир гимнастики ровно 40 лет назад

15 июля 2020 года

Около двух месяцев тому назад, я получил по электронной почте письмо от Милли Хоббс, семнадцатилетней британской девушки, гимнастки, серьезно изучающей психологию, в котором она задала мне массу вопросов, связанных с трагическим случаем, произошедшим с советской гимнасткой Еленой Мухиной. Мне приходилось получать много писем по поводу этого случая, потрясшего мир гимнастики 40 лет назад. И несмотря на то, что возвращаться к трагедиям не совсем приятное дело, письмо Милли Хоббс заставило меня это сделать.

Поразительное по своему содержанию, стилистике  и точной фразеологии, письмо содержало в себе крик души семнадцатилетней британской девушки, которая хотела знать правду, почему эта трагедия произошла и кто всё-таки виноват!? Ответ, содержащий предложение контактировать со мной, был отправлен немедленно!

Предлагая контакт, я сообщил ей, что рассматриваю ее как возможного  автора ответа на опубликованный на моем сайте комментарий к документальному фильму ” Ты в Гимнастике”( СССР). Данный материал был подготовлен мной по просьбе итальянской журналистки  Ilaria Leccardi для ее книги о Елене Мухиной и Михаиле Клименко и переведен на английский язык Margarita Estape многие годы сотрудничающей с британским блогером Elizabeth Booth, известной как “Queen Elizabeth”.

Надо заметить, что интерес, проявляемый в последние годы к причинам трагического случая  с Российской гимнасткой Еленой Мухиной, случившийся перед Олимпиадой 1980 года в Москве, и ставший причиной ее пожизненной парализации, до сих пор не даёт покоя ни журналистам, ни любителям гимнастики.

Собственно, это и стало причиной того, что прочитав не по годам взрослую, профессиональную оценку  Милли Хоббс, одного из самых трагических случаев в мировой гимнастике, я решил дать ей возможность написать не просто короткий ответ на мою публикацию, а объемный материал, основанный на анализе имеющихся фактов этого трагического случая, а также на её собственных аналитических исследованиях.

Утверждения, использованные в ее дальнейшей переписке со мной и ответы на мои вопросы, не только убедили меня в том, что это не просто тема для возможных рассуждений по поводу того, кто и в чем виноват, и виноват ли вообще, но и заставили меня задуматься, почему  сегодня, когда в мире погибает огромное количество людей от многочисленных болезней, в результате военных действий, природных катаклизмов, семейных конфликтов и других несчастий, приходящих в нашу жизнь не по нашей воле, многих людей до сих пор волнует трагическая судьба гимнастки Елены Мухиной !?

Да, это факт: беда приходит к нам без спроса. Но, ведь, в большой гимнастике выбор сложных и очень рискованных элементов программы требует самого серьезного подхода к набору подводящих упражнений, обеспечивающих фундаментальную подготовку спортсменов. Известно, что для освоения сложных, рискованных элементов, тренеру и гимнастке необходимо значительное время для формирования технической базы. Уверен, что только в том случае, когда этот элемент может на 100% стать краеугольным камнем возможного успеха, он рассматривается как элемент программы гимнастки.

В этом случае, и тренер и гимнастка, используя необходимое  количество повторений  подводящих навыков и сформировав надёжную базу, переходят к работе над исполнением целевого элемента. Главное при этом, выполнять этот элемент  надёжно, стабильно и совершенно, без причинения ущерба здоровью гимнастки. По сути дела, дойдя до стадии стабильного исполнения трюка, никто не старается думать о том, насколько он опасен, и мало кто пытается, даже, представить себе, что он может быть выполнен с ошибкой, и повлечет за собой ряд очень неприятных последствий.

Хочу заметить, что это мое личное мнение, к которому мне, как бывшему специалисту по внедрению уникальных, впервые , выполняемых элементов в программу гимнастов высокого класса, хотелось бы добавить лишь небольшую выдержку из моей книги , опубликованной в США в 2010 году:

[…] Считаю, что пора прекратить стращать самих себя возможными трагическими  последствиями внедрения в программу наших гимнастов новых уникальных гимнастических элементов. Необходимо лишь, в самом срочном порядке, установить точные технические требования к исполнению супер сложных трюков. Такие требования не дадут нам возможности спешить и браться за сложнейшие трюки без наличия необходимой двигательной, а главное, ментальной базы для их исполнения […]

V. Zaglada, ” One Coach’s Journey from East to West: How the Fall of Iron Curtain Changed the World of Gymnastics”, ( Author House, 2010)

Считаю, что для того, чтобы полностью исключить из арсенала гимнасток некоторые элементы, которые чрезвычайно опасны для их жизни, ФИЖ необходимо обновить на своем веб-сайте, список элементов, связанных с критическим риском для жизни спортсменов, а также включить перечень конкретных параметров и признаков, по которым на выполнение этих движений будет наложен категорический запрет.

Считаю, что такой список элементов высшей группы риска должен быть опубликован, как можно скорее.

ТВОЙ ХОД,  МИЛЛИ, СРАЗУ, ПОСЛЕ МОЕГО ПРЕДИСЛОВИЯ

Ну, а теперь, после некоторых моих мыслей, пришло время Милли Хоббс! Приятного всем общения с любителем гимнастики, для которой жизнь каждого человека бесценна, независимо от того в какой стране он родился и вырос, учился и познавал жизнь, радовался и страдал…

NOTHING IN OUR LIFE IS RANDOM…

Another preface to the commentary on the tragic incident that shocked the world of gymnastics exactly 40 years ago.

Vladimir Zaglada

July 15, 2020

About two months ago, I received an email from Millie Hobbs, a seventeen-year-old British girl, a gymnast seriously studying psychology, in which she asked me a lot of questions related to the tragic incident that happened with the Soviet gymnast Elena Mukhina. I had to get a lot of letters about the incident that shocked the world of gymnastics 40 years ago, and although returning to tragedies is not a very pleasant thing, I will not hide the fact that a letter from Millie Hobbs made me do this.

Amazing in its content, style and exact phraseology, the letter contained a cry from the soul of a seventeen-year-old British girl who wanted to know the truth, why this tragedy happened and who was to blame !? A response containing an offer to contact me was sent immediately!

Offering contact, I informed her that I considered her as a possible author of a response to the commentary on the documentary “You in Gymnastics” (USSR) published on my website. This material was prepared by me at the request of the Italian journalist Ilaria Leccardi for her book about Elena Mukhina and Mikhail Klimenko and translated into English by Margarita Estape, who for many years collaborated with the British blogger Elizabeth Booth, known as “Queen Elizabeth”.

It should be noted that the interest shown in recent years to the reasons for the tragic incident with the Russian gymnast Elena Mukhina, which happened before the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, and which caused her lifelong paralysis, still haunts journalists and gymnastics lovers. Actually, this was the reason that after reading an adult, professionally estimated Millie Hobbs one of the most tragic cases in the world of gymnastics, I decided to give her the opportunity to write not just a short answer to my publication, but voluminous material based on an analysis of the available  facts of this tragic incident, as well as on her own analytical studies.

The statements used in her further correspondence with me and the answers to my questions not only convinced me that this was not just a topic for possible discussions about this is not just a topic for possible reasoning about who and what is to blame, and whether it is at all to blame, but they also made me think  why today, when a huge number of people die in the world from numerous diseases, as a result of hostilities, natural disasters, family conflicts and other misfortunes that come into our lives not of our will, many people are still worried about the tragic fate of gymnast Elena Mukhina!  ?

Yes, it is a fact: trouble comes to us without demand.  But, in Elite gymnastics, the choice of complicated and very risky elements chosen for the gymnast’s Program, requires the most serious approach to a set of leading exercises that provide fundamental basis for the athletes.  It is known that for the development of complicated, risky elements, the Coach and gymnast need to have significant time to form the technical base. I am sure that only if this element can 100% become the cornerstone of possible success, it is considered as an element of the gymnast’s program.

In this case, both the coach and gymnast, can proceed to work on the execution of the target element using the necessary number of repetitions of the leading skills and having formed a reliable base. The main thing is to perform this element reliably, stably and perfectly, without causing damage to the health of the gymnast.

In fact, having reached the stage of stable performance of a trick, no one is thinking about how dangerous this skill is, and even not trying to imagine that it can be executed with an error, and will entail a number of very unpleasant consequences.

I want to note that this is my personal opinion, to which, as a former specialist in introducing unique, first-time performed elements to the high-class gymnastics program, I would like to add only a small excerpt from my book published in the USA in 2010:

[…] I believe that it is time to stop fearing ourselves with the possible tragic consequences of introducing new unique gymnastic elements into the program of our gymnasts.  It is necessary, as a matter of urgency, to establish the exact technical requirements for the performance of super-complicated tricks, which will not allow us to rush and take on the most difficult tricks without the necessary motor, and most importantly, mental base for their execution!? […]

Zaglada, “One Coach’s Journey from East to West: How the Fall of Iron Curtain Changed the World of Gymnastics”, (Author House, 2010)

I think that in order to completely exclude from the arsenal of gymnasts some elements that are extremely dangerous for their life,  FIG needs to update  on its website, the list of the elements the performance of which is associated with a critical risk to the lives of athletes. In addition to this action it is extremely necessary to publish a list of specific parameters and signs by which a categorical ban could apply on the problematic skills.

I strongly believe that such a list of elements of the highest risk group should be published as soon as possible.

IT IS YOUR TURN, MILLIE, RIGHT AFTER  MY SMALL PREFACE!

Well, now, after some of my thoughts, it’s time for Millie Hobbs!  Enjoy your communication with a gymnastics lover, for whom the life of every person is dear, no matter in which country he was born and raised, studied and learned life, rejoiced and suffered …

Elena Mukhina: An Angel On Earth

Analyzing the unusual circumstances which contributed to the Tragedy of Elena

Elena Mukhina – does this name ring a bell? For many, beautiful memories are resurrected of a young lady in a daisy-dotted leotard flying through the air, as if gravity does not define her existence. Simultaneously with such joyful moments, a surge of mourning, despair and loss pulsates through our hearts at the very thought of the untimely tragedy that struck this bright Soviet gymnast. In fact, as I write this, we are fast approaching the 40 year anniversary of the incident which abruptly tore the life of Elena Mukhina into two seemingly very different lives. In light of this occasion, it has come to my attention that, despite Lena’s well-known predisposition towards honesty and clarity, many journalists have not honoured the ex-gymnast’s wishes. As so much deception has enveloped the tragedy of Elena Mukhina ever since the 3rd of July 1980, I will use my knowledge of psychology, as well as my background in gymnastics, to present to you a clear evaluation of the possible factors which could have contributed to the tragedy of Elena. As we will discover, it is always a combination of unfortunate circumstances which tends to cause such a frightful accident, as opposed to just a single factor.

Thank you, coach Vladimir Zaglada, for providing me with a platform with which I can use to speak about a topic that is so close to my heart and soul.

Before I properly begin, I’d like to say that I was not there to witness the tragedy, which means that my words are not facts, they are just ideas. Please do not forget that I am not a coach, and I have never met Klimenko. Simply, I am just a 17 year old gymnast with a huge respect and adoration for Elena Mukhina; I really hope to make her smile up there in Heaven. My intentions are not to point fingers and blame certain people in Elena’s life for the tragedy; neither am I writing this to sensationalise the accident or disrespect Lena. As part of my efforts to produce an accurate portrait, I will also talk about my own personal feelings about Elena as a human being, because I think that it hasn’t been spoken about enough; in situations like this, it’s easy for the fate itself to overshadow the actual human underneath the suffocating haze of misfortune.

I sincerely wish that this article can start up a new conversation between gymnasts and everyday people, as well as give the friends of Lena an opportunity to reconnect with one another.

To those who were close to Lena, I want you to know that we haven’t forgotten about your dear friend, and nor will we ever do so; she was (and still is) a gift to the world.

So, where does one begin when discussing such a complex and controversial topic? Indeed, it is best to start backwards…

Sketching the portrait

As we all know, the dreaded date was the 3rd of July 1980 – the day when Elena broke her neck while training for the Moscow Olympics. If you want to be more specific, when she fractured her neck, severe damage was inflicted upon her spinal cord, resulting in quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs). I am by no means a doctor, but it is very clear that this is perhaps one of the most serious accidents in gymnastics history. When the 20-year-old Mukhina was practising her floor routine – which included a very dangerous and risky element, the Thomas Salto – she did not accumulate enough speed or height to safely execute the tumbling pass, most likely due to the fact that her take-off leg was broken at the time. As a result, she under-rotated the salto, crash-landed on her chin and snapped some of the bones in the cervical section of her spine. If you do not know what a Thomas Salto is, it is basically a roll-out move, which consists of 1.5 flips and 1.5 twists, but instead of landing on the feet as usual, it requires the gymnast to land head-first into a forward roll. Sounds terrifying, right? This element requires a lot of skill and precision, in order to safely execute it.

It is only natural to wonder, “What if Elena never had to do that element? If that was the case, then could she have avoided such a catastrophic fall? But why exactly was it necessary to implement a Thomas Salto into an already complex floor program?” And to that, I finally have an answer, kindly provided to me by Mr Vladimir Zaglada.

The Thomas Salto: Why Include Such A Treacherous Element?

As I mentioned before, at the time of the accident, Elena had a broken leg. Allegedly, she broke it at a demonstration taking place in Great Britain in late 1979 (although, the details of the exact place where this happened is foggy), and her leg hadn’t been given the proper time to heal after the cast was removed early on two separate occasions. Tension was building, and the highly anticipated gymnast had to get back to training; the 1980 Moscow Olympics were fast approaching, and Elena had to catch up on lost time.

Because of her leg ailment, Lena was unable to perform too many double somersaults, due to the force and pressure that it puts on the lower extremities. Klimenko knew that this would cause more harm to his student’s health, which would be disastrous in such a prestigious and historically significant sporting event. So, it was decided that a different element should be implemented into Lena’s floor program; an element that would (hopefully) not strain her agonizing fracture so much. Therefore, the Thomas Salto sprung to Klimenko’s attention. The hope was that this tumbling run would remove the extra unnecessary strain from Lena’s leg, as it does not land on the feet (unlike most saltos). Evidently, this is a logical thought process from her coach, which could have worked out well if Elena was physically healthy enough to safely perform this perilous move. However, it is apparent that perhaps coach Klimenko did not fully comprehend how much his top student’s broken leg would hamper her abilities. Perhaps he shouldn’t have hurried with Lena so much, and maybe should have taken cues from his student. At the end of the day, a coach knows his gymnast best; he obviously felt that Elena could do this element, but perhaps was overly optimistic, and did not thoroughly consider the true extent her broken leg and fatigue was affecting her. It is possible that her true needs weren’t fully taken into consideration by Klimenko and the other coaches around her at the time. Perhaps he knew that Lena could execute this element if she was at her fittest (i.e. with no leg ailments), both physically and psychologically.

But, the fact remains that Lena was NOT performing on two strong and healthy legs. Indeed, even if the intention was to remove the extra burden from her leg, she would still have had to do a heavy run in order to generate enough speed and force to create enough height to complete the Thomas Salto. Surely the physical aspect of this element was intense anyway, regardless of the purpose it was intended to serve? I think it’s safe to say that Elena knew that she wasn’t ready to perform this tumbling run, despite all her previous experience as a gymnast. In the American A&E documentary ‘More Than Just A Game’, Lena stated: “… I wasn’t physically or emotionally ready. My injury could have been expected; it was an accident that could have been anticipated. It was inevitable. I had said more than once that I would break my neck doing that element.” It is not difficult to see that Elena herself had a subconscious knowledge that it was going to go wrong – sooner or later, the visions of her intuition would manifest into a real life situation.

Of course, we do not know the whole truth; it lies with Klimenko and Elena.

Is there a Moral Shadow behind this revelation?

I think the message of this (to coaches, teachers, trainers, etc) is to ALWAYS listen and trust your athletes, even if you don’t like what’s coming out of their mouths. It is especially important to take them seriously, regardless of their age, but particularly as they get older; they know themselves better than anyone else. Trust them, listen to them, and empathise with them. The mental and physical health of any human being is far more important than any gold medal.

A concoction of physical ailments…

As I stated earlier, more often than not, it is actually a combination of circumstances which cause such accidents, instead of just one factor. Therefore, we cannot write out the other physical problems that Elena had at the time, which inevitably affected her ability to perform. Because Lena spent a lot of time in a cast in 1980, she gained weight. I would like to clarify that this normally is not a problem in teenagers and young women – in fact, it is supposed to happen as your body changes. Women of Lena’s age (20) tend to gain weight simply because their bodies are preparing for potential childbearing, as they are entering womanhood. Therefore, it is perfectly normal for young ladies to gain weight. Your body is MEANT to change as you grow up! In Lena’s circumstances, as a senior elite athlete, it caused a few problems. An athlete is used to carrying a certain weight and his (or her) body knows how much strength it will take to execute certain moves, as well as sensing its natural centre of balance. A gymnast must take care of his body by ensuring that he can maintain a delicate equilibrium: exercise, rest, a balanced diet, sleep and the occasional indulgence of treats. Because of this disruption to her body’s normal routine (as well as the trauma to the leg), the shift of body mass could have contributed to Lena’s misfortune.

The final ailment I would like to mention is that she also had inflammation of the articular bag in her hand, which is yet another painful thing to add to her list of maladies. We know for certain that Lena knew how to overcome pain, but, as they say, there’s only so far you can bend the stick before it breaks… Psychologically speaking, there is only so much you can manage all at once, and to me, it is clear that she was perhaps overwhelmed by all these agonizing physical issues. Of course, I am not a doctor, so I do not know the ins and outs of these particular injuries and problems. All of these issues, in combination with the mental fatigue that Lena experienced, would definitely have swayed her fate in favour of the more disastrous outcome. This leads me to my next point…

Psychological Factors: Is this the missing chapter in the story?

It is important to note the length of time that Elena had been diligently working without (as far as I’m aware) a proper break – she spent the best part of 4-5 years in elite gymnastics, which I appreciate could be considered a very short career. I also understand, as a gymnast myself, that it is necessary to be consistent and to always work to the best of your ability; you need to keep up in order to stay in good form. Nevertheless, breaks are always necessary so that the athlete doesn’t become psychologically burnt out. Ironically, the very entity that made her such a skilled gymnast (hard work) was also part of the puzzle in creating the perfect conditions for Elena’s tragedy. According to some of the people who knew her during this period, she appeared to be terribly fatigued, and most likely needed rest. Perhaps, Lena’s needs at the time were not properly evaluated, in pursuit of the Olympic goal.

In addition to this – as strange as it may sound initially – Lena’s family situation would have played a role in her fate. The lack of parents would have had an impact on her character, and even the wiring of her brain. Her mother died when she was just two years old, and her father was an alcoholic who did not want anything to do with his daughter, hence why little Lena was placed in the care of her grandmother, Anna Ivanovna. It is a well-known psychological fact that children who grow up either without a parent (or both parents), or in a dysfunctional family tend to form different pathways in their brains, compared to their counterparts who grew up in a healthy family dynamic. (To clarify, in psychology, a “healthy family dynamic” consists of two emotionally available parents, who can provide a sense of consistency, predictability, routine, love, empathy and the promise of permanent care and nurture.) This is most likely one of the reasons why Lena struggled to say “no” to performing the Thomas Salto, despite her gut-wrenching instinct that she would break her neck. Even if there are no physical factors to prevent a person from refusing an element, there are always mental boundaries (not too dissimilar to a concrete wall) which suppresses the ability to say “no”, even if that person has a right to do so. For many people, this concept is difficult to comprehend, but I can confirm from my own experience that this notion is a very real problem.

Much to my sorrow, I have seen many comments being made under videos about Lena’s tragedy, saying phrases such as, “Stupid girl, why didn’t she just leave? There was nothing there to stop her,” which is so incredibly wrong! I will repeat myself again if I have to – Elena most likely had different ‘brain make-up’ compared with her peers, which is common in children who have lost parents. If an infant is not shown that he is allowed to have boundaries in a healthy family hierarchy complex, the child is transmitted the subconscious message that it is their job to please others. I get the feeling that Lena may very well have had this problem and, perhaps, felt that she needed to live up to the head coaches’ expectations and to please those around her. As these children grow up, they struggle to stand up for themselves, including for their own fundamental needs and necessities, turning them into what we call “people pleasers”. Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it would not have been easy for Lena to say “no”; it is clear that there were many “lacks” in her life.

Mikhail Klimenko: Should he bear the blame?

Another question that comes to mind when contemplating the causes of the tragedy is this: “Is Klimenko really to blame for what happened?” Lots of people tend to point their fingers at him and cast judgements, but one must question whether this is both factually and morally acceptable. Indeed, Lena herself never blamed her former coach for the accident, and even stated that she felt sorry for him because he was a victim of the system, a system playing “very grown-up games” (in Lena’s words). If she truly did believe that Klimenko was guilty of causing her disaster, then I believe that she would have just stated it plainly and simply; she was known for being able to call a spade a spade.

Factually speaking, Mikhail Klimenko was not physically there at the time of the accident because he had flown to Moscow to convince some senior officials of Lena’s worthiness to be included in the main Olympic team. Allegedly, he forbade the Thomas Salto in his absence; without his supervision, he understood the difficulty and potential risks that the element proposed to Elena. Some say that Lena ignored his instructions, but personally, I do not believe this because I think that it was not as simple as that. If Klimenko was not there in Minsk to shout at her and tell her to perform the Thomas Salto, then why is it that so many people still blame him for the horrendous outcome? Possibly, this is because it is widely accepted that he was the one who implemented the hazardous element into Lena’s already complex program, despite her broken leg.

Morally speaking, the reality of Lena and Klimenko’s coach-athlete relationship is still ill-defined; many claim that he was a despot, a sadist and a nightmarish monster, which is a very biased report of a man’s personality, coming mostly from people who did not even know him. On the contrary, others say he was a fine trainer who treated his athletes well and knew how to approach each of them individually. It is true that Klimenko raised many wonderful gymnasts and that he did bring out the best of Elena, in terms of her performance, but, we do not know what went on behind closed doors, unless we speak to those who knew him. As I see it, it is – once again – not as clear-cut as it appears from a quick glance. As a result of this uncertainty about such a crucial aspect of the story, I think the best thing we can do to uncover a more accurate understanding is to look into Lena’s body language when she is around Klimenko. The documentary “You are in gymnastics” is a perfect place to start, if you wish to make this part of your own personal research. I myself have done this, but that is a long discussion for another day and a separate article.

Personally, I don’t think that Klimenko should be completely blamed for what happened to Lena because it is clear that it was not simply one person who was “responsible”. In the Italian biography ‘La Strada di Lena’, I read that Elena’s grandmother wanted to sue Klimenko, but Elena defended him and would not let her do that. It is true that he was not physically there at the time of the accident, but equally, I don’t think he was completely innocent either; I believe that he should take some responsibility, as he was part of the story. Once again, I do not know him personally, so I feel as though it would be unjust to judge his character.

Head Coach vs Personal Coach: Who held the ultimate power?

The next part of the puzzle is quite murky; it is all very double-ended because (I would imagine) some of those who were put in a position of care to Lena wanted to avoid blame… Apparently, when Klimenko was absent, Lena was left under the supervision of the head coach at the time, Aman Shaniyazov and his guest, Coach Ivanova. By many accounts, it was Shaniyazov who asked her to perform her floor routine with maximum difficulty. I feel that this is a very strong possibility; if we look back to the 1978 documentary “You are in gymnastics”, Lena seems to ‘jump to it’ whenever Shaniyazov is present. It’s hard to judge whether she was totally relaxed around Klimenko, but I get the impression from this movie that she was more tense around the head coach than her personal trainer. Due to this observation, I am more inclined to believe that she was wary – or perhaps even afraid – of Shaniyazov, and therefore may have felt more pressure to live up to his expectations and follow his orders, in spite of the potential dangers that threatened Lena’s health.

But, it is hard for me to judge what exactly happened on that day; when it comes down to the fine details, it is extremely unclear and shrouded with mystery. It’s like an eclipse of veracity. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know what is a lie and what is the truth, hence why I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus unnecessarily and without sufficient proof. Once again, I have never met either Shaniyazov or Klimenko! I believe that the more we can learn, the more we can make an educated measurement of the conditions that set the scene for this earth-shattering cataclysm.

My final thoughts…

To conclude the evaluation, from my point of view, there were many different circumstances and factors that paved the path for Elena Mukhina’s tragedy; it is NEVER one thing that gives rise to such unique and horrific fates. Of course, there will be points that I have missed, simply because I am either unaware of them, or did not have enough space to fit every single component into this article. In addition, it is hard (or even impossible) to make concrete judgements about a situation in which I was not present; I can only present arguments for and against, so as to avoid upsetting those who knew Elena, or making a biased and absurd report. I sincerely hope that I have opened people’s eyes to other factors which they may not have considered before.

As a strong believer in fate (similar to Lena), I also feel that it was all predestined and inevitable. In fact, Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel “War and Peace” explains this phenomenon very well, which can be used as a reference for the fate of poor Elena. He illustrates how everything in life is like a domino effect, like a long line of events and decisions which sway the chain of fate without our conscious knowledge. This can explain why, when something happens, it is human nature to want to blame one person or thing, since this helps our brains to understand something that is seemingly incomprehensible. I believe that this is very relevant to Lena’s tragedy, which is why I thought it was worth mentioning.

Finally, I promised that I would write about my true and honest feelings about Elena because, after all, we can’t forget the human being who lived under the blanket of the tragedy. So here it is!

An Open Letter To Heaven

Dear Elena,

We are tremendously lucky to have had you on this planet, even if it was for a short time – we have been blessed with 60 years of courage, beauty, artistry and life. Even though you are not with us physically, we can still feel you in our hearts and souls, and see you clearly in our minds. You watch over us and guide us with your life-changing story from the Kingdom of Heaven, where you are free from your earthly burdens and paralysed body.

Lena, you have touched the hearts of so many people around the world, and we want you to know that we never forgot about you; we talk and think about you every day. For me, you changed my life for the better, and your light led me out of a really dark place. You saved my life! You really did. I am so, so thankful for the day that I happened to stumble across your story – it is a tale that has the power to change lives and help people to change their perspectives of life itself; I believe you have taught us the most compelling lesson. Even though you are in Heaven, you are still helping so many people each and every day. You really are an angel, Elena.

You are loved on earth and in Heaven, where you can be in the arms of your beloved mother and grandmother. I hope that you are doing all the somersaults across the clouds, and that you are doing everything that you couldn’t do in your short life on earth. You (of all people) deserve eternal happiness and peace. For 60 years, the world has been changed for the better; and for years to come, your presence will still be felt.

Lena, you mean more to me and so many other people than you can imagine – how I wish I could give you a hug and talk to you in person; there are so many things that I would say to you if I could, but for now, I hope that prayers are enough to keep contact. Someday, we will all be able to meet with you again. Hopefully, God willing, I will be able to visit your resting place in Moscow one day – I don’t know what gifts I could bring that would show the full extent of my devotion and gratitude to you. Maybe a conversation (even though I may look crazy for talking to a spirit) and some sort of sentimental handmade gift will suffice.

Lenochka, people like you never really die; you live on in the people who will love you forever. No one can ever replace you. Although you were deprived of the opportunity to have children, the people whose lives you have changed are – in a way – your offspring and descendants.

To honour your life and legacy, the best thing we can hope to do is to help those who also find themselves in difficult circumstances to remain human – just like you.

All my love and somersault,

Millie

Contact details

If you wish to contact me about this article, Elena Mukhina or anything at all, please write to this email: millie.hobbs165@gmail.com

A little bit about me

Hello there! Thank you for taking the time to read my article about Elena Mukhina – the great legend of gymnastics and life itself! My name is Millie and I’m a 17 year old British gymnast; I have had a deep love for gymnastics since I was a child, but got into doing gymnastics as a teenager. Currently, I am returning back to student life after tak onlying a break from education for a few months, due to mental health reasons. Ultimately, this tough, but enlightening, experience has opened my eyes to the expansive world of psychology, which is constantly evolving for the better. My hope is to be able to help others, as well as gain a better understanding of the way humans react/interact with one another and their environment. I aspire to gain the knowledge and understanding to be able to light a torch for others, in a similar way to how Elena did so for me.

In addition to attending recreational gymnastics, I also study the Russian Language; I hope to be able to translate some of my work one day, as well as be able to use the language to connect with even more people across the world. My Russian roots also greatly contribute to my interest in such a misunderstood, but incredibly beautiful, language and culture.

My passions are also strongly rooted in music – a wondrous admiration for lyrical and melodic genius is ingrained in my soul. I have an appreciation for music which was written before my time, particularly from the 1960s through to the 1980s. But, in general, my favourite bands include Queen, Twenty One Pilots and The Beatles (there are many more too!).I play several instruments, however, the piano will always hold a special place in my heart; I have been lucky enough to be able to play this heartfelt instrument for 7 years.

As well as this, I am very fond of literature, poetry and writing – basically, anything that isn’t closely linked to maths! Some of my favourite novels include War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; and The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.




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