Maria Guigova (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin
The first real star to emerge from
the rhythmic gymnastics scene was Maria Guigova, a diminutive blonde from
Bulgaria. Guigova's astonishing achievements during the formative years of the
sport have given her a firm foothold as one of the top 10 rhythmic gymnasts of
Guigova was born April 24, 1947. She
became enamored of the sport in her teens, and saw her first success in 1965,
when she placed 6th at the Prague World Championships. She dropped to 9th place
at the 1967 World Championships, but won her first title with hoop, an event she
would dominate for the next six years.
When the World Championships were
held in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1969 Guigova was on top of her game. After winning
the all-around by an imposing .450 points, the swift-moving athlete swept gold
medals with hoop, rope, and in free exercise, and also added a silver with ball
for good measure. Although her margin of victory was not quite as wide at the
1971 World Championships, Guigova qualified to all four finals and grabbed two
more golds (hoop and ribbon).
By the early 1970s, other gymnasts
were starting to catch up with the rhythmic virtuoso. Guigova tied Soviet Galima
Shugurova for the title at the 1973 World Championships, but received the best
crowd response of all the gymnasts. Indeed, the audience applauded throughout
her ribbon exercise, where, raved International
Gymnast magazine, Guigova was
"constantly in conversation with the fanciful ribbon." The now
26-year-old veteran also won yet another hoop title and took a pair of bronze
medals for clubs and ribbon.
The work of this supremely talented
gymnast is characterized by great speed and difficulty. In fact, Guigova was the
driving force behind the rising level of difficulty that began in earnest in the
early 1970s. Her record 4 hoop titles is still unmatched, attesting to her
superiority with this apparatus. But one of her most memorable routines is her
1973 ball exercise, choreographed to the music of composer Dimitar Vultchev. In
this exercise, Guigova demonstrated cutting-edge flexibility, spectacular high
apparatus tosses, and an unheard-of catch while lying on the floor. The risk,
originality, and soulful presentation she displayed set the pace for every
gymnast who succeeded her.
Three-time world champion Maria
Guigova finally retired in 1974. Following the completion of her education, she
became a member of the FIG Technical Committee, a post she held from 1978 to
1992; she also served as the head of this committee for twelve years. In 1978,
the legendary gymnast was named vice president of the Bulgarian Rhythmic
Gymnastics Federation, and in 1982 she became the federation's president. In
1999 after a 10-year hiatus, during which she served on the Bulgarian
federation's Administrative Council, Guigova was once again named president of
her country's governing gymnastics organization. Her 13 World Championship
medals -- a record that has been broken by only four of her compatriots -- have
cemented her status as Bulgaria's original golden girl.
(December 2, 2000). During the last FIG Congress in Rome, nominations for the RG
Technical Committee were made. Guigova has been elected to the panel.
Left to Right: Petrova,
Guigova, and Ignatova. Courtesy of Tom
© 2000-2002. This page was created on February 3,
2000 and last updated July 2004.