Becomes A Gymnastics Superstar
At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Latynina won gold medals in the all-around and on vault, and tied for gold on floor exercises. Her team won silver medals on bars and bronze medals in the team drill event. Their wins were part of a notable shift in the sport of gymnastics: "away from strength, power, and sustained movements," according to an article on the Women in Gymnastics Web site, and toward "beauty, grace and choreography." Latynina made such an impression at Melbourne that she became the first internationally acclaimed superstar in the sport of gymnastics. She was twenty-one years old.
Interestingly, Latynina noted that her routines were not particularly difficult or innovative; instead, she tried to perform each move perfectly and with elegance.
In 1957 and 1958, Latynina won every event at the European championships, and in 1958, at the World
Championships, she almost duplicated this feat, winning gold medals in every event except the vault, in which she won a silver medal. Her winning sweep was made even more remarkable by the fact that while competing in these events, she was pregnant with her daughter, Tanya. Tanya was born ten days before Latynina's twenty-fourth birthday.
In a 1964 article in USSR Soviet Life Today, Latynina told Alexandr Maryamov that her daughter deserved half of the credit for her win at the World Championships. Latynina knew that she was five months pregnant during the tournament, but had kept her condition a secret from her doctors, since she knew that they would make her withdraw from competition.
Latynina skipped the 1959 European Championships because of her pregnancy, but after giving birth to her daughter, Latynina returned to competition. At the 1960 Olympics, Latynina won a medal in every event she competed in: a gold medal in all-around, floor exercises, and in team competition; silver medal on uneven bars and balance beam; and a bronze medal in the vault.
In competition at the 1961 European championships, Latynina won gold in floor and all-around, and silver on uneven bars and balance beam. She repeated her gold wins in floor and all-around at the 1962 world championships, and also won silver in the vault and balance beam.
In 1963, Latynina began graduate study at the Kiev Physical Training Institute. She was also a member of a committee that judged movies made by the Kiev Film Studios. As a celebrity, she met other Soviet heroes, such as cosmonaut Gherman Titov and his family.
Famous Sports StarsGymnasticsLarisa Latynina Biography - An Orphan Seeking Beauty, Becomes A Gymnastics Superstar, 1964 Olympics, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY LATYNINA: