Larissa Latynina

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Larissa Semyonovna Latynina (Russian: Лари́са Семёновна Латы́нина; born December 27, 1934 in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR) is a Russian-Ukrainian and former Soviet gymnast who was the only female athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals. She holds more Olympic medals than any other competitor, male or female, in any sport and was responsible for establishing the Soviet Union as the dominant force in gymnastics.[1] She also holds the record for most individual medals (14 outside of team events) in Olympic history.


Early life

Born Larisa Semyonovna Dirij (Лариса Семёновна Дирий), she first practiced ballet, but turned to gymnastics after her choreographer moved out of town. She graduated from high school in 1953 and moved to Kiev to attend the Lenin Polytechnic Institute and continue training. There Latynina trained at the Burevestnik Voluntary Sports Society. At the age of 19, she debuted internationally at the 1954 Rome World Championships, winning the gold medal in the team competition.

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 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 also successfully defended her floor title, took silver medals in the balance beam and uneven bars events, and bronze in the vault competition.

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