Marina Lobatch (URS)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano


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

One of the finest rhythmic gymnasts in history, Marina Lobatch was, paradoxically, an Olympic Champion who had never been crowned European or World Champion. Her timing seemed to be all wrong - until the 1988 Olympic Games.

Born in Smolevicki, USSR on June 26, 1970, Lobatch first made an impression at the 1985 World Championships, placing 7th all-around behind the unstoppable Bulgarians, two of her own veteran teammates, and a rising East German star. But the slight Soviet would catch the eye of the crowd here, as well as at the following year’s European Championships, where she performed a beautifully subtle rope routine choreographed to music that had been written especially for her. Her competitive fire and theatrical expression were remarkable for the girl noted to be painfully shy. At the 1987 World Championships, Lobatch performed almost flawlessly, yet found herself again behind the home-favorite Bulgarians, this time just out of the medals in 4th (tied with teammate Anna Kotchneva). As she stood beside the podium, her face revealed both her disappointment and disbelief.

1988 found Lobatch battling to get into the medals again with a 4th place finish at the European Championships. The judges and audience adored her balletic lines, wonderfully expressive movements, and cutting-edge difficulty, but the Bulgarians-whose 80s heyday was coming to a close-- were still ahead in the race. Finally, at the Seoul Olympic Games, Marina seized the moment and capitalized on mistakes from the other gymnasts. A perfect 40.00 in both preliminaries and finals assured her the gold medal, despite stiff competition from Adriana Dunavska (BUL) and new Soviet standout Alexandra Timochenko. At last Marina would have her day, and a well-deserved gold for this supreme athlete/artist who probably should have won several other major titles.

Lobatch (left) and Lukyanenko (right) at the
1997 World Championships in Berlin.
Photo courtesy of Rhythmic Gymnastics

Interestingly, IngMar (of IngMar's Rhythmic Gymnastics Pages) reports that Marina nearly lost the gold medal in Seoul when she came within one second of exceeding the time limit during her clubs routine. Fortunately, her pianist, Anatoly Vekshin, began playing faster at the end of her routine and Marina finished just as the gong sounded.

Marina Lobatch retired soon after her Olympic triumph and turned to coaching. She has made a great impact on the Belarussian team, coaching Larissa Lukyanenko and Tatiana Ogryzko for several years before turning them over to national team coach Galina Krylenko (one of Marina’s own coaches). Lobatch, who is both a judge and coach for the Belarussian Federation, lives in Minsk with her husband, Dmitry Bogdanov, and daughter, Irina. 

Update (August 27, 2000). According to Rhythmic Gymnastics World, Lobatch recently gave birth to her second child.

Lobatch was born on June 26, 1970

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1999-2002. This page was created on May 31, 1999 and last updated on September 6, 2000.


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