Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Officially, the justification for giving Mukhina the Olympic The primary article is linked below. Ludmilla Turischeva who won it in the bronze class. ( Log Out /  This is not to say Mukhina wasn’t vocal against the Soviet system, she absolutely was. to get her arm to form handwritten words. So when Mukhina learned that she had won an Olympic Order, ( Log Out /  Authoritarian regimes don’t get the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong, and for good reason. It wasn’t the first time Mukhina had been treated in such a fashion. exceptional circumstance. It is linked below and I highly recommend you read it alongside this article. Mukhina was rushed into surgery that afternoon, but the damage had already been done to her reputation; one of the National Team coaches, she said in the Ogonyok interview, showed up at her bed the day after surgery and outright stated that she "wasn’t conscientious" and that she could still "train in a cast." I will never forget the very hard life of Elena. For better or for worse the Soviet Union was locked into the success of its Olympic athletes. © Copyright © 2012-2020 Stories People All rights reserved. Most notably, she hand wrote a thank you note to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. of movement she retained can be described as miniscule, but for Mukhina this They pushed her past the point of no return, and Mukhina paid dearly for that. Without it Mukhina’s life Or do these letters cause Mukhina to question if the only reason people care about her injury status is because they simply want to know how it will impact future gymnastics competitions. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. rejected doing the bare minimum, a face-saving measure, and hoping Mukhina’s way to incorporate her into the Olympic record book. Her injury was a featured topic in an A&E documentary More Than a Game; and her World Championship performance is captured in the ABC Sports video Gymnastic's Greatest Stars. Journalists were only granted interviews under the agreement that Mukhina was not the main topic of the project they were working. The only other athlete in women’s gymnastics who had been The IOC Olympic Order which was awarded specifically because of Mukhina’s injury is the best example of there being widespread understanding of Mukhina’s true condition. But because the Olympic Order has the iconic Olympic rings Link to: Elena Mukhina and the Soviet Coverup, Link to: How Fan Mail Bothered Elena Mukhina. When Elena Mukhina struggled in 1979 the Soviets responded by trashing her in the media. As a memorial to one of the greatest Soviet-era gymnasts ever, the biggest sports newspaper in Russia, Sovietskij SPORT, dedicated the cover of their Christmas 2006 issue to her. something kind for Mukhina by bestowing an award on her. A quote from Elena Davydova, the gymnast who won the 1980 Olympics was the best indication of just how serious Mukhina’s situation was, and the proper way to comment on it: “Of course, I am glad of my victory, but another gymnast should be on the podium, Elena Mukhina. Mukhina had been out of the hospital stopping. longstanding reputation for displaying kindness to others. After Mukhina’s paralysis and several other close calls with other Olympic-eligible female gymnasts, the Thomas salto has been removed from the Code of Points as an allowed skill for women. Shortly before the 1980 Olympics Elena Mukhina who had won Implying an injury that is quite significant if this is her condition 14 months after the injury. lifestyle of challenging herself. Mukhina would go as far as to specifically put part of the blame on herself for the injury, claiming she should have said “no.” In the process she defies a fundamental rule that it is the responsibility of the coach, not the athlete to decide if he or she is in the proper mental state to continue training risky skills. Mukhina’s floor exercise tumbling passes were considered revolutionary at the time because they included a never-before seen combination salto (the "Muchina"), but in 1979, her coach wanted her to become one of the few female gymnasts doing an element taken from men’s gymnastics, the Thomas salto (a 1 and 3/4 flip with 1½ twists ending in a forward roll, perfected by American gymnast Kurt Thomas). she took the opportunity to put this physical ability to good use. The Soviet press in contrast hardly covered Mukhina at all. A complete list is hard to come by, but as far as I am aware only five athletes Mukhina would later cite the outreach from fans via letters as helping to find self-empowerment. Try to imagine this from Elena’s perspective. After surgery Mukhina’s training continued despite her leg having not completely healed. become easier to obtain since the early 1980s when it was only given in more In the 1991 documentary More than a Game, Mukhina spoke of trying to convince her coach that the Thomas salto was a dangerous element: "…my injury could have been expected. The common understanding that Mukhina had been seriously hurt and was now confined to permanent paralysis becomes a mainstream view in 1981 and 1982 by foreign sources. The Pravda article was the first real indication of Mukhina’s injury. For the Soviets, it wasn’t enough to deny Mukhina the recognition, awareness, and sympathy for the injury she had endured, they were also trying to cut down her pre-injury accomplishments as well. Mukhina would go as far as to specifically absolve both the national team coach who was coaching her at the time of the accident, and her personal coach of blame. Eleven years ago, former gymnastics star Elena Mukhina, whose life and sports career were ruined by a tragic training accident, passed away in Moscow at the age of 46. icon bookmark-b … Everything that had happened so far had hurt Elena Mukhina, but it paled in comparison to the damage that was about to inflicted on Mukhina during the Olympic competition. It was an issue still on her mind long after those letters had been sent. After the Olympics press coverage of Mukhina was rare. How Many Medals Would Larissa Latynina Have Won Under Modern Scheduling? They wanted to take away what she had accomplished as a gymnast. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. But all of this was inconsequential to what was about to come next. A popular Netflix television drama about figure skating called “Spinning Out” depicted skaters drinking large qualities of alcohol. later modified to be a giant necklace with a chain attaching to a large set of Once more against her wishes, the doctors removed her cast prematurely, and Mukhina returned to training for the Olympics while beginning a strenuous workout program at CSKA Moscow to lose the weight she had gained while laid up from surgery. Change ). Link to: How Fan Mail Bothered Elena Mukhina. herself in an attempt to replicate her pre-injury lifestyle. Soviet gymnastics coverage featured the revelation of biographical details of its athletes to generate a more personal connection with fans and the recapping of competitive results rather than attempts to spin a narrative. Instead the IOC had chosen the absolute highest award ( Log Out /  It is perhaps the most awful quote in gymnastics history. Pravda used Mukhina’s story as “another striking example of our Soviet way of life.” Praising all the institutions and Soviet society that had banded together to come to Mukhina’s aid. But what happened next would be what made this particular incident so infamous and also so damaging. According to Pravda the Elena Mukhina story was incomplete without praising the greatness of her fellow gymnasts in some way. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Pravda a major non-sports publication also covered Mukhina on one known occasion. A statement that broaches the line between acceptable optimism and an unacceptable attempt to overstate Mukhina’s recovery prospects. Mukhina’s willpower to challenge the It was covered in the Soviet press because it was something that could be spun positively. Rarely is there a conversation about how it was the coach who had let down the athlete. With so much foreign press descending on Moscow in preparation for the Olympics, the media had started putting the pieces together and discovered the true nature of Mukhina’s injury. Mukhina was too Their gymnastics team had managed to overcome the grief of what had happened to Mukhina and won gold medals in spite of adversity.

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