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Loop Mukhina: A tragic page in the history of Soviet gymnastics

She was amazingly talented and persistent. Elena Mukhina was the absolute champion of the USSR and the world in gymnastics, showed an incredibly complex program, some elements of which are now prohibited at competitions because of their danger. The gymnast dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion, but the injury received during the training forever deprived her of such an opportunity. But even being bedridden, Elena Mukhina continued to fight for the right to live.
The future gymnast, who was born in 1960 in Moscow, was left without a mother at the age of two, and the baby’s father, after the death of his wife, created a new family in which there was no place for her daughter. Fortunately for Lena, she had a wonderful grandmother, Anna Ivanovna, who raised and raised her granddaughter.

Elena dreamed of gymnastics since childhood. While her peers did not miss a single broadcast from the figure skating championships, Lena was fascinated by the screen, where fragile girls performed complex gymnastic elements on bars or a log.

When Antonina Olezhko appeared at one of the lessons and invited everyone to the gymnastics section, Elena Mukhina did not hesitate for a second. It was her dream, which acquired very real features.

The performance of the little girl could be envied by many athletes. She could train for hours, not noticing fatigue and repeating the element over and over, bringing it to perfection. Very soon, Elena’s efforts were noticed, and she reached a new level: she began to train with Dynamo, the most famous at that time, in Dynamo, and then transferred to CSKA with him.

Mikhail Klimenko, to whom Eglit handed over his pupil, firmly decided to make Mukhina the world champion. How he managed to discern steadfastness and sports excitement in a modest girl remains a mystery.

Industriousness and perseverance

Mikhail Klimenko was a demanding, rigorous and even tough coach. In his desire to make the athlete a champion, he was ready for any sacrifice. Elena had to listen to the coach in everything, she did not have the right to tears, skipping workouts or disputes. The coach decided that Elena Mukhina should show the most difficult program.

He made an incredible program for the student, which hardly anyone could repeat, and developed a tight training schedule.

Elena obeyed the trainer implicitly, over and over again honing her skills, overcoming pain and fatigue. After only a year and a half, Mukhina became one of the most powerful gymnasts and applied for membership in the USSR Olympic team. But the commission at that moment did not approve the gymnast’s candidacy, justifying its refusal by the athlete’s lack of experience and stability.

However, neither Elena Mukhin nor her coach was upset by the refusal. They continued to stubbornly prepare to participate in the competition and were almost sure of the imminent success. In 1977, Elena Mukhina became the second in the all-around in the USSR, and at the European championship, held in Prague, she was able to win three gold medals at once.

That championship was a landmark for the athlete: in Prague, for the first time, she presented to the audience and judges the most difficult element of the program, the “Korbut loop”. True, the coach, on the advice of his brother, especially for Elena, improved and complicated this element, as a result of which he was called the “Mukhina loop”.

It was impossible not to admire the athlete, who easily soared and seemed to soar above the bars, performing complex coups in the air. Subsequently, both loops, due to danger, were forbidden to be performed by gymnasts.

Ups and downs

Her path in sports was not easy, the athlete on the way to the podium repeatedly suffered injuries and worked, trying not to notice the pain. From 1975 to 1978, the gymnast suffered several serious injuries, but she often trained, even while being treated in a hospital. She accustomed herself and her coach to the fact that she can train to the point of opportunity without noticing pain and not allowing herself to be weak.

In 1978, Elena Mukhina became the absolute champion of the USSR and the world. When the USSR anthem sounded at the World Championships in Strasbourg, Elena did not hold back her tears: she was proud to be able to win and become the strongest gymnast in the world.

However, 1979 brought the first disappointment to the athlete and her coach. Demonstration performances of Helen in England in 1979 ended in a broken leg and the inability to take part in the World Cup. Barely recovering from an injury, the gymnast began training. She practiced, not knowing fatigue, overcoming pain. And only occasionally complained to her teammates about incredible weakness. Athletes often noticed that Elena secretly wipes away tears.

Many trainers and gymnasts believed that the cause of the injury to Elena Mukhina was the excessive loads established by the coach. She was used to obeying the coach and continued to work even when she had absolutely no strength.

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