Larisa Latynina

Larisa Latynina bigraphy, stories - Gymnast

Larisa Latynina : biography

27 December 1934 –

Larisa Semyonovna Latynina ( ; born 27 December 1934) is a former Soviet gymnast. Between 1956 and 1964 she won 14 individual Olympic medals and four team medals. Her total of 18 Olympic medals was a record for 48 years until surpassed by American swimmer Michael Phelps on July 31, 2012. Although Phelps broke her total medal count record, her record for individual event medals (14) still stands. She is credited with helping to establish the Soviet Union as a dominant force in gymnastics.


She was born to Pelageya Anisimovna Barabamyuk (1902–1975) and Semyon Andreevich Diriy (1906–1943), who died in the Battle of Stalingrad. Larisa was maried three times. Her last and current husband is Yuri Izrailovich Feldman (b. 1938), a member of the Russian Academy of Electrotechnical Sciences and a former competitive cyclist. Her daughter from a former marriage, Tatyana Ivanovna Latynina (b. 1958), is a folk dancer. She was born only five months after her mother won a world all-around title, and seven months after her birth Latynina already competed at the national championships. Latynina kept her pregnancy a secret, even from her coach. She also had a son.


Latynina retired after the 1966 World Championships and became a coach for the Soviet national gymnastics team, a position she held until 1977. Under her coaching the Soviet women won team gold in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics. She organized the gymnastics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

She is a citizen of Russia, and lives in an estate near the town of Semenovskoye.

Gymnastics career

At the 1956 Summer Olympics, she competed with Ágnes Keleti of Hungary to become the most successful gymnast of the Olympics. Latynina beat Keleti in the all-around event, and the Soviet team also won the team event. In the event finals, Latynina won gold medals on the floor (shared with Keleti) and vault, a silver medal on the uneven bars, and a bronze medal in the now discontinued team event with portable apparatus. Keleti also won six medals: four golds and two silvers.

After a very successful World Championships in 1958 (winning five out of six titles despite competing whilst four months pregnant), Latynina was the favorite for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. In the all-around event she led the Soviet Union to take the first four places, thereby also securing a win in the team competition by a margin of nine points. Latynina defended her floor title, took silver medals in the balance beam and uneven bars events, and bronze in the vault competition.

Latynina won all-around titles at the 1962 World Championships, beating Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia. Still the defending World Champion at the 1964 Summer Olympics, she was beaten by Čáslavská in the all-around competition. Latynina added two more gold medals to her tally, winning the team event and the floor event both for the third time in a row. A silver medal and two bronzes in the other apparatus events brought her total of Olympic medals to eighteen—nine gold medals, five silver and four bronze. She won a medal in every event in which she competed, except for the 1956 balance beam where she came in fourth.

Latynina’s nine gold medals makes her second on the list of most Olympic gold medalists together with Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and Paavo Nurmi, only behind Michael Phelps, who has 18. She held the distinction of having more Olympic medals (either individually or with a team) than anybody ever, from 1964 until 2012. She is the only woman to have won nine gold medals. She is also the only female athlete who at some point has held the record for most Olympic gold medals. Additionally, within the sport of gymnastics, she is the only woman who has won an all-around medal in more than two Olympiads, the only woman who has won an individual event (floor exercise) in more than two Olympiads, and one of only three women who have won every individual event at either the World Championship or Olympic level. She is the only female gymnast to have won team gold, All-Around gold and an event final gold at the same Olympics.