Alexandra Timochenko (URS)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Rhythmic gymnastics legend Alexandra Timochenko was born on February 18, 1972 in Boguslav, Ukraine. She began gymnastics later than most world-class athletes, at the age of 8. But the hard-working Timochenko, coached by the famous mother-daughter team of Albina and Irina Derjugina, was to become one of the most important figures in rhythmic history.

An impressive 7th-place finish at the 1987 European Junior Championships marked the gentle Soviet's first major international result. In her first year as a senior, Timochenko would shoot straight to the top of the rankings with gold medals in the all-around, rope, hoop, and clubs at the 1988 European Championships. The tall and willowy 16-year-old would score a perfect 40.000 in the 1988 Olympic final, which, astonishingly, earned her only the bronze medal. Nevertheless, her flawless form, great difficulty, and expressive elegance stole the spotlight from her more experienced company.

Timochenko was almost unbeatable in 1989, taking five out of six golds at the Sarajevo World Championships. Her streak would continue through numerous other international competitions, although she started to feel the pressure from up-and-coming teammates. She would grab her second European title in 1990, but spent the rest of the year flip-flopping titles with the steadily rising Oksana Skaldina. In 1991, Timochenko seemed poised to earn her second World title after a very strong early season. However, in Athens Timochenko's difficulty level could not match Skaldina's and the former World Champion had to settle for silver. Inconsolable, Timochenko sobbed openly even after receiving a perfect score with rope. Event finals would be her revenge, though, as she swiped all 4 titles out from under the nose of all-around winner Skaldina.

Fans held their breath when a slightly shaky Timochenko placed second to the other Oksana -- Kostina -- at the 1992 European Championships. When the Olympics finally came around, Timochenko showed some nervous flutters again but still wound up on top after preliminaries. In a mistake-ridden all-around final, she finally proved herself the true master in dance and apparatus technique, and won her second Olympic medal -- this one gold.

The strength of Timocheko's work lay in her virtuosity of performance and great ability to interpret music. She was never afraid to try something different, whether it took the shape of her envelope-pushing flexibility elements or an intense modern ribbon routine choreographed to a Michael Jackson song. Her best routines combined great difficulty and fantastic body technique with innovative apparatus handling and the performance sensibility of an actress. Among her many fine exercises, several stand out: her classically powerful 1988 hoop, seamless and refined 1989 ball, beautifully controlled 1989 ribbon, and coolly upbeat 1992 rope and clubs.

Timoshenko in 2004
Photo courtesy of Tom Theobald

Although the Ukrainian Federation desperately tried to convince her to continue after the Olympics, Timochenko, then 20 years old, quietly retired. She enrolled in the Goethe Institute to study German language, while simultaneously completing her studies at the Kiev University of Physical Culture and Sports. She spent some time coaching in Germany before getting married and making the permanent move to Wien, Austria.

These days, "Sasha" divides her time between her home in Wien and coaching at club TSG Soflingen in Ulm, Germany. In a recent interview she declared, "Now I rarely think of or remember my titles." Even though Timochenko doesn't contemplate her many titles, the rhythmic community could never forget her amazing contributions.

Timochenko was born on February 18, 1972.

1999-2002. This page was created on August 8th, 1999 and last updated July 2004.

 

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