Olga Gontar (URS)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Few gymnasts have managed to make a lasting impression in only a few years on the senior scene, but Olga Gontar did just that. In just two years as a senior gymnast, Gontar became one of the best-liked athletes of her time.

Born in Minsk on January 11, 1979, Gontar started training as a 6-year-old. In a short time she came under the guidance of Irina Leparskaya and Galina Krylenko at club Dynamo Minsk. Gontar's pure lines and extraordinary elegance catapulted her to stardom as soon as she began competing internationally. In 1991, the 12-year-old Gontar won the first of three consecutive all-around titles at the Schmiden International. Just two years later she would make her mark by taking the all-around gold at the European Junior Championships by more than .200. She also came in first on both ball and ribbon and was second with rope.

The fair and lithe Gontar made her senior debut at the 1994 Gymnastics Masters competition, where she finished 6th in the all-around and scored a silver with ribbon. At the European Championships that same year, Gontar tied with better-known teammate Larissa Lukyanenko for 5th place -- she also narrowly missed a medal in the rope and hoop finals. An excellent performance gave Gontar the bronze at the Goodwill Games, where she received some of the most appreciative applause of all the competitors. She placed 5th again at the 1994 World Championships, and qualified to all four apparatus finals in the company of some of the world's best-ever gymnasts.

1995 would be Gontar's last and busiest year in rhythmic. She won a pair of bronze medals at the Alfred Vogel Invitational (where she also won rope and placed 3rd with ribbon) and European Cup. Errors cost her dearly at Corbeil (where she was 9th) and the Medico Cup (where she was 7th), but she rebounded to 6th at the second European Cup (where she added a gold for ball) and 5th at the Grand Prix of Belgium. Her sweep of the silver medals at the 1995 Gymnastics Masters competition may have been impressive, but she staked her claim to favorite status by tying with Ukrainian Yekaterina Serebrianskaya for the gold at that year's DTB Cup.

Before Gontar could compete at the World Championships, reports surfaced that a back injury was forcing her out of the sport. But insiders hinted that Gontar's retirement had less to do with injury and more to do with her rocky relationship with her coaches. The gymnast's strong opinions and unwillingness to obey her trainers were probably the deciding factors in Gontar's stepping out of rhythmic at the age of 16.

Olga Gontar's fluid grace is what stands out in her exercises. Her 1994 Latin-flavored hoop featured spirited dance and floating leaps. But even better is her moving 1995 ball, which took full advantage of her long lines and perfect extension. Crowds were always awed by her innovative ending, in which she picked up the ball with the bottom of her foot and deposited it squarely in the small of her back while in a penchee position.

After her retirement, Gontar disappeared from the RG radar for several years. But in 2000 she performed an exhibition routine at the Salon de la Lingerie apparel convention in Paris, and she has recently signed on as a fashion model with the Names Modeling Agency in Milan, Italy. Gontar currently appears in a lingerie advertisement.


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1999-2002. This page was created on October 25, 2000 and last updated on November 3, 2000.

 

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