Polina Astakhova : biography
Polina Astakhova ( Polina Grigorivna Astakhova; , Polina Grigoryevna Astakhova) (October 30, 1936, in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukrainian SSR – August 5, 2005 in Kiev, Ukraine) was a Soviet/Ukrainian gymnast who won ten medals (five gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals) at the Summer Olympics, where she participated as a member of the USSR team in 1956, 1960 and 1964.
Astakhova became interested in artistic gymnastics at age 13, after she had watched the gymnastics championships in Donetsk, a city, where their family moved a short time before. She trained in the local gymnastics sports club Shakhtyor, where her trainer was the Honoured Trainer of the USSR Vladimir Alieksandrovitch Smirnov.
Astakhova earned a nickname The Russian Birch in Western countries for her exceptional grace, and at the 1960 Olympics she was even called Madonna by the Italian journalists. Between 1956 and 1966 Astakhova was on top of many international and national competitions especially on the uneven bars apparatus event. She was a member of the USSR team between 1955 and 1968.
In 1954 Astakhova competed in the USSR Championships for the first time and in a year she made the USSR National team at the 1956 Summer Olympics. She was the youngest team member and contributed to the team's gold. At the 1960 Summer Olympics Olympics in Rome she led in the all-around, but lost a whole point for a fall on beam, which was the seventh routine of eight contested. She was very disappointed by the accident and even did not compete that year, although in Rome she won the gold in the team competition and on the bars, silver on the floor and bronze in the all-around. She recovered after the 1961 European Championships, where she won gold medals on the bars and on beam. Competing in the 1964 Summer Olympics, Astakhova contributed to the team's gold, won on the bars, was second on the floor and third in the all-around. After she finished her career, since 1972 she worked as the USSR State Trainer for Ukrainian SSR for some time. In 2002 she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Astakhova spent the last years of her life in Kiev, Ukraine before her death at age 68 from pneumonia.
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