With a nine-year career and a
trunkful of medals, Yevgenia Pavlina is one of the most
successful gymnasts of the 1990s. Regardless, it still took her a long,
frustrating climb before she made it to the top.
Born in Minsk on July 20, 1979,
the lanky Pavlina started gymnastics at the age of 7.
She trained 48 hours per week at club Dynamo Minsk with Irina Leparskaya
and Belarussian master Galina Krylenko. Pavlina made her senior
debut at the 1993 Medico Cup in
Austria, where she placed 3rd in the all-around and took
two more bronze medals with clubs and ribbon. At the Coupe
d'Opale she placed 4th, but the new senior struggled to 17th at the Corbeil
Later that year she got her big
break, however, at the expense of more famous teammate
Larissa Lukyanenko. When Lukyanenko broke her ankle in training, Pavlina,
just 14 years old, was called upon to replace her in the 1993 World Championships.
She helped the Belarussian 5th-place effort, then went on to place
13th in the all-around.
In 1994 Pavlina was passed over
for major international assignments in favor of seasoned
teammates Lukyanenko and Tatiana Ogryzko. Pavlina competed at the Julieta
Shishmanova Cup, where she won the bronze, and the Spring Cup, where she
The following year, Pavlina took
on greater responsibility within the Belarussian team.
She placed 6th at the European Cup in Italy, then 14th at the
European Cup in Russia. At the International of Ljubljana, the fast-moving
gymnast scored her first big win; she also won titles with rope and
clubs. She followed up this result with another 6th place, this time at
the Alfred Vogel Invitational, and 10th place at the 1995 World
Pavlina was not chosen for the
1996 Belarussian Olympic Team, but she did compete in
most major events that year. After a win at the San Francisco Invitational,
she came in 5th at the Kalamata Cup, 6th (qualifying round) at the
International of Ljubljana, and 4th in the International Hungarian Cup.
In Corbeil she notched a 9th-place ranking, and also came in
4th in the team competition. At the apparatus
finals-only 1996 World Championships Pavlina managed 6th
with clubs, but then redeemed herself with the ribbon bronze.
After the retirement of Lukyanenko,
Pavlina stepped up to become the Belarussian number two.
At the 1997 Schmiden International, she scored the all-around
silver as well as all four apparatus golds. The Derjugina Cup was another
success for her; she earned a pair of bronze medals for the all-around
and rope. At the Gymnastics Masters competition in Germany, she was
awarded medals for each event: silver with hoop, bronze with ball, and gold
with clubs and ribbon. Although she didn't fare as well at the European
Championships -- 9th all-around -- she narrowly missed out on a
medal (4th) at the 1997 World Championships.
With Ogryzko's retirement
following the World Championships, Pavlina took over
leadership of her team. She was first at the Schmiden International in 1998,
and 4th at the DTB Cup (where she also won two silvers for clubs and ribbon
and a bronze for rope). But that year's European Championships would be
her greatest success. A precise, action-filled, expressive performance gave
her the all-around silver, as well as a bronze with ribbon and a gold in
the team event. Shortly after, she finished 3rd at the Goodwill
Although Pavlina competed at most
major internationals in 1999, she had begun to be
eclipsed by teammate Julia Raskina. But she was also the victim of questionable
judging. After a third-place finish at Corbeil, Pavlina was knocked
to 5th all-around at the European Championships. Costly mistakes with ribbon
meant only 11th all-around at the World Championships, where she only managed
to qualify to two event finals. She wound up with a bronze for hoop and
a close-but-no-cigar finish with ball (5th) -- plus the bitter aftertaste
of skewed scoring.
In an interview after the team
event at the 1999 World Championships, the outspoken
Pavlina remarked, "Frankly speaking, it is annoying to receive
lower scores. Rhythmic gymnastics is a battle not only with the
competitors, but with the judges as
well." When asked what her goal was for the remainder of
the meet, the slim brunette would only say, "I cannot say a
concrete aim, because there is a problem
with the judges. Because of that, I prefer not to have
The elegant and innovative Pavlina
decided to give up the fight after the competition
ended. She retired abruptly, leaving fans to grieve her absence. But
not even a year later, Pavlina was back in action, this time as the founder
of a Belarussian dance troupe that featured several retired gymnasts.
Yevgenia Pavlina is best known for
her for her animated and unusual dance and body
positions, and her radiant yet mischievous smile. One of her master works
is her darkly dramatic 1998 ribbon, which featured risky tosses and a stunningly
original wrap during her final pirouette. She is also well-known for
her spunky 1999 interpretation of Carmen with ball, and her wonderfully
sophisticated 1999 medal-winning hoop. Pavlina, who was never
afraid to experiment with different styles and difficult
combinations, has won a dedicated group of fans for her
plain-spokenness, as well as for her mature presentation
and high degree of artistry.
(June 30, 2001). A choreography gig drew Pavlina to Germany, where she gave a
brief interview to Gymmedia (the complete interview is available in German only
at www.gymmedia.com). Pavlina, currently a
student at the National Sports Academy in Minsk, aspires to become a coach. She
reports that she has a steady boyfriend, and would like to start a family soon.
Pavlina also spoke of her new RG-theater company, for which she has great
passion despite the lack of financial profit.