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279: A Diva Is Magical: The Svetlana Khorkina Episode (Commissioned)


This week’s episode was commissioned by Club Gym Nerd member Bella, who asked for an episode about all things Svetlana Khorkina: the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

  • Part 1: Getting philosophical with the question, who is Svetlana Khorkina?
    • The height. The hair. The diva. The queen. The drama. The “villain.”
  • Part 2: The good
    • The champion – 7-time Olympic medalist; 20-time world medalist; 47 medals across Euros, worlds, and Olympics
    • The innovator – 7 eponymous skills, at least one on each event. We pick favorites.
    • The artist – all-time favorite Khorkina floor routines.
      • Carmen from the 1996 Olympics
      • The 2004 choreographed kiss
      • THIS very special, very bonkers ghost/snowman exhibition routine.
    • A diva is magical
    • All-time best Khorkina moments
      • The scream heard ’round the world during the 2000 all-around final
      • The 1996 Olympic gala dismount
      • Giving the vault final spot to Zamolodchikova
      • That time Zamo did the worst bars routine of all time and Khorkina died of hilarity
  • Part 3: Chatting with Luba
    • Luba from Gymnovosti gives us the inside scoop on Khorkina’s new book “The Magic of Winning” and the cultural and social context in which the legend that is Khorkina is situated.
    • She has translated all the details and best quotes from “The Magic of Winning” on her site.
  • Part 4: The bad and the ugly
    • The 2000 Olympic Team Final meltdown
    • The definitely real, vast international gymnastics conspiracy against Svetlana Khorkina
    • Why Khorkina is basically if tumblr were a person
    • Her not-great reaction to the AA silver in 2004
    • Khorkina wisdom
      • On how success feels: “I didn’t feel anything, apart from maybe when I was on the top podium and they were underneath.”
      • On modesty: “I changed people’s attitudes. It’s very good to be sexy. My career made it clear that tall girls can do incredible things. I opened the way. Now I’m famous all over the world.”
      • On dealing with disappointment: ”I will leave what happened on the vault far behind me, like the North Pole.”
      • On ewww: ”Age isn’t important to me. ‘You know they say a man sometimes prefers older women because they can satisfy him more. It’s the same in gymnastics.”
      • On losing graciously: “I’ve seen a much tougher opposition than her. Let’s see how long she can remain on top. Can she keep going and compete in two more Olympics like myself?”
  • Part 5: Is Svetlana Khorkina the greatest gymnast of all time?



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6 years ago

You forgot to mention her layout full ON THE FREACKING BEAM. Even though she only hit it once it’s still the most insane skill ever performed on the beam.

6 years ago

The reason both Chow and Khorkina got the stalder 1 1/2 named after them is because the skills were finished in different grips – Chow in mixed grip, and Khorkina in under grip. Back then, the COP did distinguish between the two.

6 years ago

Pleaseeeeeeee find a clip of Spencer’s favorite meltdown moment of the flopping dying on the side of the floor. this sounds incredible and I must see it.

6 years ago

Oh, Sveta. She’s still to this day probably one of the most provocative gymnasts to ever compete. It’s interesting that her body type was so atypical for most gymnasts yet she had such amazing longevity in her career. I know her coach adapted her training so she didn’t have to do as many repetitions, so I wonder if that attributed to her staying relatively healthy in the sport for so long.

I remember that World Cup where Khorkina laughed at Zamo, though it wasn’t quite as rude as it looked. It was a weird format where the top two gymnasts would duke it out to see who would win. Khorkina went up first and completely blew her routine, so she figured her shot was gone. But then when Zamo also blew her routine she couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Remember her outburst at the team final in Sydney, after she did beam? All of the other team members went up to congratulate her and she snapped at them and said “Why are you following me? Leave me alone.” Then NBC was mystified at why her teammates didn’t go up to her after her floor routine in the next rotation. I thought it was pretty ironic that she was upset with them for falling on beam when she herself had fallen on bars, and in 1999 it was her falls on vault and beam that cost them the team world title.

Even though her lack of sportsmanship bothers me a bit, I still feel horrible for what she went through in that all-around final in Sydney. It was definitely hers to lose, and to have such an egregious error with the equipment is unforgivable. She said her coach could hear her crying in her room all night.

Anyway, love her or hate her she is still one of the most remarkable gymnasts of all time. So many innovations and original skills that she brought to her routines, and no one played to the crowd like Sveta. In an era where most gymnasts were emotionless gym-bots she brought passion and effusiveness to everything she did. The Sydney games alone would have been a snoozefest without her 🙂

6 years ago

Even though it wasn’t mentioned, I’m a big fan of her 2000 FX Routine. It was just so beautiful…and something that I don’t feel any other gymnast at the Olympics could pull off!

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