Nellie Kim : biography

29 July 1957 -

At the 1976 Summer Olympics the rivalry between Nellie Kim and Nadia Comăneci became the focal point of the women's gymnastics competition. Kim's teammates Ludmilla Tourischeva and Olga Korbut, the Olympic champions of Munich, were overcome by the two rising stars in the battle for the gold. Nellie Kim won three gold medals, one in the team competition and two in the event finals: on the vault and floor exercise. Music for her floor routine, choreographed by Valentina Kosolapova, was a fiery Samba, and one of the elements was the double back salto, performed for the first time in Olympic women's events. Kim also won a silver medal in the all-around, receiving the perfect 10 for the Tsukahara vault with the full twist, which was also performed for the first time in Olympic history. She was praised for her feminine beauty and the flamboyant, graceful and intense style. Comaneci won the gold in the all-around, on bars and balance beam. She had a slight lead over Nadia on the other 3 events combined in the all-around but despite being the World bronze medallist on beam Nellie performed very poorly on that apparatus conceding a full 1.0 to Nadia. Boris Bajin, the National Coach of Canada, noted " Nelli Kim performed an outstanding original vault with perfect style and flawless execution. Everyone present, judges, coaches, gymnasts and spectators agreed with the result. She shows far more originality and possibility than is incorporated in the code of points". John Atkinson, the British National Coach agreed adding that of all the perfect scores scored in Montreal he believed Kim's 10 on vault was the most perfect.

After the 1976 Summer Olympics Nellie Kim moved to Byelorussian SSR (joining the Armed Forces sports society in Minsk) and represented her new home on the USSR team. Two years later Kim successfully competed at the World Championships. She won gold medals on the vault, floor exercise and in the team competition, and placed second in the all-around to Elena Mukhina, overcoming Nadia Comăneci, who fell from the uneven bars, among others. The greatest success came at the 1979 World Championships, where Nellie Kim became the all-around champion, beating Maxi Gnauck, Melita Ruhn and her teammate Maria Filatova. Her floor exercise routine, choreographed by Galina Savarina, was accompanied by a new piece of music, House of the Rising Sun by Santa Esmeralda, which would also be used one year later at the Olympics.

In 1980 she won the all-around title at the USSR Championships and successfully competed in the Moscow Olympics, her last competitive performance. She tied for the gold medal on the floor with Nadia Comăneci, after scoring 9.95 in that event finals, and won gold in the team competition.

Her gymnastic appearances are remembered for "her strong feminine, temperamental and charismatic appeal".

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