Elena Naimushina (URS)
Elena Naimushina was born on November 19,
1964 in Krasnoyarsk, a city in Siberia, Russia. In 1977 she represented the
Soviet Union in several junior meets, and would go on to become the Junior
Siberian Champion. In 1978 she competed in the
prestigious Chunichi Cup, placing second overall (behind teammate Yelena
Davydova). That same year she was the
bronze medal at the USSR Championships.
By 1979 Naimushina was one of the
Soviet's major stars. She traveled to Great Britain for the Champions All (2nd
AA), where she made quite the impression on Charlie Jones, one of the NBC commentator.
He said, "Every pretty girl that I've interviewed always kisses me
right here, on the cheek." When the interpreter translated she
blushed, giggled, and replied, "That is something you can look
forward to after the competition!" (She did kiss him on the cheek
at the end).
Naimushina after winning the 1980 Olympics. The girls were given flower
which had been named after them. Photo courtesy of Elena Naimushina.
Elena was also one of three Soviet
women (along with Elena Mukhina and Natalia
Shaposhnikova) chosen to travel to Denmark for the European Championships.
Unfortunately, she finished 17th all-around due to a disastrous uneven bar
routine (8.650). Naimushina also traveled twice to the United States in 1979,
first to compete in the American Cup (6th AA) and next to compete at the World
Championships (2nd Team, 13th AA). It was at these World Championships that the
Soviet team suffered historical defeat at the hands of the Romanians.
Interestingly, Naimushina was not on the medal podium to accept the team silver.
Perhaps she took the loss extra hard?
Naimushina referred to the 1980 as "a
very special year for me." Indeed, she medalled in every
competition in which she competed. On the national scene she won the bronze
medal at the USSR Cup and medalled on two events at the USSR Championships (1st
BB, 2nd FX). Internationally she placed third at the Moscow News and shone in
the event finals (1st BB, 2nd UB, and 3rd FX). In Toronto, at the World Cup, she
captured the gold on beam and stunned the audience with her particularly stylish
FX. The judges placed her second behind East Germany's Maxi
Gnauck. And last but not least, at the 1980 Olympics she enjoyed team gold.
Naimushina made a tremendous
impression on a fan in the United States, James Finch, who went to work at
producing Elena Naimushina: A Videosymphony. The film was
completed in 1981 in a joint venture with CTV Network and CFTO in Toronto. It
aired in February 1981 on CBS affiliates and subsequently as excerpt on CNN.
(The film is not available commercially). To this day Naimushina speaks fondly
of her fan support.
Naimushina continued to compete
after the Olympics, but admittedly was past her prime. She retired in 1981 and
experienced an enormous growth spurt, so much so that her Olympic teammates did
not recognize her when they reunited a couple of years later!
In a personal correspondence, Elena
mentioned that she's always dreamed of having a large family (11 children, to be
specific!) and "be fat and milk cows!" Elena's life took
a slightly different path than she'd dreamed, but she's very happy. She married
a fellow sports person, Andris, a man Nelli Kim had introduced her to at Round Lake back
in 1980. Although not a gymnast, Andris was a world champion in cycling. The couple has
three children, Tom (aged 16), Phillip (15), and daughter Linda-Anna (6).
(1) Elena with
sons Phillip (left) and Tom right), (2) Husband Andris (Elena wrote
on the back, "A great man") and (3) Daugther Linda-Anna. Photos
courtesy of Elena Naimushina
Like most successful Soviet
gymnasts, Naimushina received offers to coach abroad, however she elected to
stay in her homeland with her family. Best friend and former teammate Natalia
Illienko accepted one of these coaching positions in lieu of Naimushina, and
happily resides in England now. Naimushina has retained her ties with gymnastics
nonetheless - Between
1990 and 1993 Naimushina performed in the All Stars of Dinamo sports show
under the management of Mikhail Voronin. "It was a wonderful time -
we traveled a lot and had a huge success," Elena reminisced. She
and family currently reside in Riga, Latvia. She is not working. Husband Andris
is in the construction business.
Special thanks to James Finch and
Oleg Katchinski for their help in contacting Elena. Thanks also to Oleg and Nika
Kim for their translations.
. This page was created on February 21, 2001.