Tribute courtesy of Robin
Possibly the only rhythmic gymnast
who is beloved by almost every rhythmic fan, Oksana Kostina was
born on April 15, 1972 in Irkutsk (Siberia), Russia. As a
competitor for the Soviet Union and later Russia, she earned an
incredible 14 World and European Championship medals -- 9 of them
gold -- in her tragically short career.
A baby-faced, 17-year-old Kostina
debuted with an excellent 5th place finish in the preliminary
competition at the 1989 World Championships. She narrowly missed
a trip to the all-around final after a drop at the end of her
ribbon routine, but cemented her up-and-coming status with a pair
of silver medals: one for the team competition, and one for her
exquisitely dramatic and original ball exercise. 1990 would see
her match that all-around finish at the European Championships,
where she aided the Soviet gold-medal effort. Later that year,
she would snag an impressive clutch of medals at the prestigious
Goodwill Games and Gymnastics Masters competitions.
At the 1991 World Championships,
Kostina found herself missing finals yet again despite a strong
4th-place finish in preliminaries. As in previous years, she
would be passed over for international assignments in favor of
more famous teammates Alexandra Timochenko and
But a fantastic start in 1992 surely seemed her ticket to the
Barcelona Olympics: she placed 3rd at European Championships --
just behind Timochenko and two notches ahead of Skaldina -- and
went on to win the CIS National Championships. However, when the
Olympic team was finally announced, a devastated Kostina
discovered that she was the odd woman out once more.
Frustrated with what many felt was
the Unified Team's favoritism toward Skaldina, Kostina and her
coach, Olga Butanova, defiantly made the trip to Barcelona.
Kostina trained with the British team for a short time before the
Russian Federation ordered her home.
When the dust had finally settled
after the controversial 1992 Olympics, Kostina emerged as the
undisputed queen of rhythmic. A rare sweep of all 5 golds (two of
them tied) at the 1992 World Championships proved that she was no
longer in the shadows. Indeed, her every exercise brought
thunderous roars of approval, and her blues-guitar ball routine
-- in which she executed several original traps and seemed to
feel the music through every part of her being -- provoked a near
frenzy of cheers.
On February 11, 1993, just three
months after her well-deserved victory, disaster struck. Kostina
and fiancé Eduard Zenovka, who was driving at the time, were
involved in a car crash. Both were rushed to the hospital, where
the 20-year-old Kostina died several hours later from internal
injuries. Zenovka, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in modern
pentathlon, was also seriously injured. More significantly, he
was charged with drunk driving in the incident. He would recover,
though, and go on to win the silver medal in the pentathlon at
the 1996 Olympics.
Kostina left behind a legacy of
beautiful gymnastics characterized by ballerina-worthy body
technique, crisp apparatus handling, and captivating
choreography. Although several of her routines stand out -- her
enchanting 1989 hoop to "It Ain't Necessarily So,"
hauntingly elegant 1989 ball, 1992 blues ball and jazzy rope
(which included her peerless right-left-right split leap
combination) -- she is best remembered for her ability to
interpret music, and for a unique delicate quality that she
expressed in every performance. Oksana Kostina may be gone, but
as the myriad tributes confirm, she is most definitely not
was born on April 15, 1972
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© 1999-2002. This page was created on July
17, 1999 and last updated on December 22, 1999.