Dalia Kutkaite (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Being a great gymnast during the period of Bulgarian rhythmic dominance often meant medal-less finishes in competition after competition. Unfortunately, this is true of Dalia Kutkaite, one of the best gymnasts of the early 1980s. Kutkaite was born on February 11, 1965 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Coached by Aldona Giriuniene, Kutkaite achieved success early on. Although she placed only 4th at the 1981 USSR National Championships, she placed a strong 5th at that year's World Championships. She even made all 4 event finals, but came up empty-handed.

In 1982, Kutkaite rose to prominence with a win at the European Championships. She followed up her triumph with two more gold medals (clubs and ribbon) and a silver (hoop). The petite blonde went into the 1983 World Championships as one of the favorites, but a drop with hoop and miscues with ribbon would leave her in 5th place again. In event finals she came back to take a bronze with hoop. Her perfect 10 with clubs, however, almost received no medal; it wasn't until the Soviet coaches protested the high score of Bulgarian Anelia Ralenkova that Kutkaite pulled into a tie for bronze on that event.

1984 was the test of Kutkaite's fortitude. Again, she could not break into the medals, winding up in the familiar 5th position at European Championships. Two apparatus medals -- a silver for ball and bronze for clubs -- paled in comparison to the multiple medals won by teammate Galina Beloglazova. The 19-year-old Kutkaite's position on the Soviet team was becoming increasingly precarious.

Although she traveled to Spain with the Soviet team for the 1985 World Championships, Kutkaite was passed over for a competition spot in favor of up-and-coming teammates Tatiana Drutchinina and Marina Lobatch. Their fine performances in the meet simultaneously cemented their status on the Soviet team and sealed Kutkaite's fate.

Always a great technician, Kutkaite is also known for her pleasant personality and perky style. Her pretty 1983 hoop and ribbon routines were crowd favorites, but Kutkaite's best event was undoubtedly the clubs. In an upbeat 1983 exercise, she displayed her excellent technique with a variety of complex tosses and catches, including under-the-leg and behind-the-back work. But it was her peppy dance and ability to play to the crowd that caught the attention of judges and spectators.

Kutkaite moved to Spain in the late 1980s, where she took a coaching position at Club RG Marbella in Malaga. Under her guidance, several of the club's gymnasts won medals at the Spanish National Championships. In 1998 she became the selector for the Spanish Junior National Team and assistant coach to National Group Head Coach Nancy Usero. (Coincidentally, Kutkaite's former coach also works as a trainer in Spain, but she has not experienced her student's level of success.) Dalia Kutkaite now lives and works in Madrid. She is the married mother of a daughter, a gymnast who competes nationally for Club RG Marbella.

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1999-2002. This page was created on October 29, 1999.


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