Natalia Laschenova (URS)
Photo used with the expressed
permission of OEFC
Natalia Laschenova was born on
September 16, 1973. She began gymnastics at age 6 under Gunta Afanasyeva,
eventually moving on to be coached by Alexander Miretski of Dynamo Riga.
She burst onto the scene in 1985 at the Riga International. Although only aged
12, the meet was held in Laschenova's "back yard" and was a logical
testing ground for her physical and mental ability to handle competition. Young
Laschenova did not disappoint, finishing 3rd AA and picking up a gold on the
balance beam and silver on vault.
The following year
would hold Laschenova's first competitions abroad. She won the 1986 Belgian Gym
Masters, then a very prestigious competition. As one of the Soviet Union's most
promising juniors, Laschenova was also sent to compete in the Junior Friendship
Tour (Druzhba). She contributed to her team gold medal, and individually picked
up a bronze in the all-around. She polished off the year with strong showings at
the 1986 Moscow News (4th AA, 2nd V, 1st FX) and 1986 USSR Spartakiade (2nd V).
Inconsistency began to
plague Laschenova in 1987, performing well in some meets (e.g., 2nd AA in the
1987 USA vs USSR and 3rd AA at the 1987 Riga International) but shaky in others
(e.g., 8th AA at the 1987 Kraft International). In an interview with IG
magazine, her coach attributed it to Laschenova's "changing
moods," but the level-headed Laschenova disagreed, "It is simply
that my time has not come yet."
Indeed, 1988 showed
more promise for the multi-talented youngster (Laschenova was reportedly a
master with the Rubik's Cube, working one out before each event). Successful
performances at various internationals, the 1988 European Cup (3rd AA), and USSR
Cup (3rd AA) vaulted Laschenova onto the 1988 Soviet women's gymnastics team.
Although she did not throw her famed triple back in Seoul, the youngest member
of the team performed well, contributing to her team's gold and placing 5th AA.
It was in 1989 however,
that Laschenova blossomed. Laschenova reigned supreme at the prestigious
Chunichi Cup, USSR Championships, and more. Although she finished second at the
1989 World Championships, the crown would have been hers were it not for
"new life," the practice of erasing scores from the team competition
and starting the AA competition from scratch (Boguinskaia's fall from beam in
the team event would have wiped her out of AA contention prior to "new
1990 was a difficult
year for Laschenova. Although she won a few meets (1990 Moscow News, 1990 Arthur
Gander, etc.) injury kept her from competing to potential. As a result,
Laschenova missed out on the 1990 World Cup and was relegated to the position of
alternate on the 1990 Soviet Goodwill Games team.
In 1991, Laschenova
competed at the World University Games (Universiade). Inconsistency thwarted
what should have been an easy AA for Lashchenova, though she bounched back in
the event finals (2nd V, 2nd BB, and 1st FX). Sadly, this would prove to be one
of Laschenova's last competitions. Although most former Soviet republics
competed as "Team Unified" at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Baltic
republics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) enjoyed restored Olympic status at
these Games (i.e., Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians could not compete for
team Unified in Barcelona, they had to compete for their respective countries
instead). Laschenova (and fellow 1980 World Team member Elena Sazonenkova) hailed
from Latvia. Because Latvia did not compete as an individual nation at the 1991
World Championships (the qualifier for the 1992 Olympic gymnasts), Latvia could
not qualify gymnasts to Barcelona. Knowing that Barcelona
was out of reach, Laschenova retired in 1991.
Laschenova went on to
marry fellow gymnast Nikolai Tikhonovich, and later remarried, finding happiness with a former boxer named Roman. In 2000, the family moved to the USA
where Laschenova started coaching at Southern Tier Gymnastics in New York State. She
even coached one of her junior
elites, Nicole Ford, to the 2000 US National Championships.
Laschenova has three children, daughters Alexandra and Liliana
and son Anthony. Years ago, when asked if
then 8-year-old Alexandra was a gymnast, Laschenova purportedly smiled and told IG
magazine, "She's good." Alexandra proved that, with
such results as her fifth and fourth all-around placements at the 2007 and 2008 JO National
Alexandra has a scholarship to compete NCAA gymnastics at
Auburn, but that may be in jeopardy as the family's green
card status is in question.
For more information, please visit Natalia's official Web site.
. This page was created August 1, 2000 and last updated on December 7,