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Larisa Latynina

An Orphan Seeking Beauty

Born in Kherson, Ukraine in 1934, Latynina, who began her gymnastic career under her maiden name, Dirii, initially dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, but her childhood was difficult. Deeply affected by years of poverty, World War II, and its aftermath, Latynina was also an orphan. She dreamed of making a better, more beautiful life, and as part of this dream, she began studying ballet when she was eleven years old.

Like many other schools in the Soviet Union at the time, Latynina's incorporated exercises with hoops and balls performed to music, and her teachers soon steered her into gymnastics. By the time she was sixteen, she was the national gymnastics champion of the schools division.

She was a dedicated student, and graduated from high school with honors in 1953. In school, she had also studied gymnastics, and her devotion to the sport paid off at the 1954 World Championships, when she placed 14th all-around.

Latynina studied at the Physical Training College in Kiev; at the school, she met and married Ivan Latynin, a ship's engineer.

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Famous Sports StarsGymnasticsLarisa Latynina Biography - An Orphan Seeking Beauty, Becomes A Gymnastics Superstar, 1964 Olympics, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY LATYNINA: