Galina Beloglazova (URS)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Photo by Tom Theobald.
Check out Tom's photography site!

Galina Beloglazova's name might not gain much recognition from the new generation of gymnastics fans, but this Soviet legend is one of the most beloved rhythmic athletes of all time. She is also, not coincidentally, one of the world's most accomplished gymnasts. Beloglazova was born in Astrakhan, Russia, on June 10, 1967. She began training at just 5 years old under Ludmila Tichomirova, who would coach the talented gymnast throughout her career.

Beloglazova emerged onto the scene as a junior, in 1980. As a senior, she was chosen as the alternate to the Soviet team at the 1982 European Championships, but her performance in practice so impressed her coaches that they put the 15-year-old in the competition lineup. She wound up 7th in the all-around and qualified to two event finals.

In 1983, Beloglazova gave the Bulgarian team a shock by nearly winning the world championship title. If not for a drop on the very last note of her clubs exercise, Beloglazova would have actually defeated Bulgarian star Diliana Gueorgiueva. Instead she tied for silver and won three more medals in apparatus finals (gold with ball and ribbon and silver with hoop). Most impressively, she counted four perfect 10s in this competition.

Photo by Tom Theobald.
Check out Tom's photography site!

At the 1984 Europeans, Beloglazova gave a stunning gold medal-winning performance. She also won medals on each of the 4 apparatus -- gold with ribbon, silver with ball, and bronze with hoop and clubs. The audience nearly rioted at her every move, and cheered so loudly at the end of her routines that the following gymnast often had to wait several minutes before she could begin her exercise.

Beloglazova took one of her few non-medal finishes at the 1985 World Championships, where she wound up in 4th place. Three more apparatus medals -- including another gold with ribbon -- would be her consolation prize. A stronger performance at the 1986 Europeans gave the famously beautiful blonde the all-around bronze, as well as another pair of golds for ribbon and ball and a bronze for clubs. In event finals she received the loudest cheers of any gymnast, and was presented with flowers before she even left the carpet after her ribbon exercise.

Later that year, Beloglazova would perform in her last major competition, the Goodwill Games. She finished 3rd all-around, 2nd with clubs, and 1st with ball. Again, she was cheered so heartily that she left the floor near tears. While at the event, her great beauty won her yet another prize: the title of "Miss Goodwill Games." The day after the Games ended, Beloglazova married boyfriend Heino Endo, the renowned Estonian basketball player. Beloglazova's legacies to the sport are many, but she is best remembered for her musicality, a skill cultivated during her years of music study as a teen. Her exercises are characterized by amazing interaction with the apparatus; she performs not out to the audience, but inward, as if expressing her love for the apparatus. Her balletic 1983 ball to the music from Giselle and 1983 classical ribbon -- which featured a crowd-pleasing backspin within the snaking ribbon -- are two of her finest. In addition, her photogenic 1986 ball, in which the ball seemed to move magnetically over her body, and dramatic, flowing 1986 ribbon that showcased her high turning leaps are never forgotten by fans. Beloglazova, the unopposed master of the ribbon from 1983 to 1986, was a photographer's dream and an eternally poised competitor.

After her retirement, Beloglazova went on to earn degrees in English and German language. She is now a coach in Moscow, where she lives with her husband and young son. In 1999, the much-admired Beloglazova received confirmation of her place in gymnastics history when she was inducted into the FIG Hall of Fame.

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1999-2002. This page was created on October 29, 1999 and last updated on September 12, 2000.