Svetlana Boginskaya

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Svetlana Boginskaya
— Gymnast —
Full name Svetlana Leonidovna Boginskaya
Alternative name(s) Svyatlana Leanidaŭna Baginskaya (Святлана Леанідаўна Багінская)
Nickname(s) Belarusian Swan, Goddess of Gymnastics
Country represented  Belarus
Former countries represented Olympic flag.svg Unified Team,  Soviet Union
Born (1973-02-09) February 9, 1973 (age 42)
Minsk, Soviet Union
Height 157 cm (5 ft 2 in) (5'2")
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Head coach(es) Ludmilla Popkovich
Former coach(es) Lyubov Miromanova
Retired 1997

Svetlana Leonidovna Boginskaya (Belarusian: Святлана Леанідаўна Багінская; born February 9, 1973) is a Soviet/Unified Team/Belarusian gymnast. She was called the "Belarusian Swan" and the "Goddess of Gymnastics" because of her height, balletic grace, and long lines. Her last name derives from "boginya" ("богиня") literally meaning "goddess" in Russian. She is especially renowned for the drama and artistry she displayed on floor exercise. Boginskaya is a three-time Olympic Champion, winning an individual gold medal in Vault at the 1988, and team golds in 1988 and 1992.


Boginskaya was born in Minsk. She was a figure skater for several years, but began gymnastics at age six. Two years later, she moved from Minsk to train full-time at the Moscow Round Lake Gymnastics Center. By age fourteen she was a member of the Soviet national team. She won her first medal, a bronze for balance beam, during the 1987 World Championships. She became one of the best gymnasts on the Soviet team and was expected to place very well at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. She finished the games with four medals - team gold, gold on Vault, silver on the Floor and the All-Around bronze.

However, the joy from her success would be short-lived. Boginskaya's long-time coach Lyubov Miromanova committed suicide just three days after the Olympics. Miromanova had been a surrogate mother to her, as she coached and cared for Boginskaya since she moved from Minsk to train full-time in Moscow. Boginskaya has always been reluctant to discuss this devastating time in her life. To this day, the reason for Miromanova's suicide remains a mystery.

Boginskaya pressed on, and began training with a new coach, Ludmilla Popkovich. Under her tutelage, Boginskaya became World Champion in 1989 and later dedicated her performance to her late mentor.

In 1990, Boginskaya became only the third woman to sweep the European Championships (after Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia in 1965 and 1967, and Ludmilla Tourischeva of the USSR in 1973), winning the gold medal in every individual event. In doing so, she defended her titles in the All-Around, Vault, and Floor Exercise, and added titles in the Uneven Bars and Balance Beam. In 1991, in a controversial finish, Boginskaya fell short of defending her world title, losing the gold medal to Kim Zmeskal of the United States. However, she earned gold medals in the Team and Balance Beam competitions.

In 1992, Boginskaya, then 19 years old, had a disappointing performance at the 1992 European Championships, falling on her final event, the floor exercise. She finished in fifth place, while her young teammate Tatiana Gutsu won the all-around title. Nevertheless, she won the balance beam title with a score 9.95, and remained a favorite to win the all-around title at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Gymnastics fans anticipated a duel between Boginskaya and her nemesis, American Kim Zmeskal. However, while Boginskaya won her third Olympic gold medal in the team competition, she finished fifth in the Individual All-Around. Zmeskal finished twelfth. Instead of the anticipated showdown between Boginskaya (who was awarded a controversially low score on the uneven bars) and Zmeskal (who faltered on floor and beam in the all-around), Tatiana Gutsu and Shannon Miller provided one of the most dramatic competitions in Olympic history.

Boginskaya retired after the 1992 Olympics, but decided to make a comeback in 1995. She said that she was inspired by Katarina Witt who had made a memorable comeback of her own at the 1994 Winter Olympics. She moved to Houston, Texas to train with Béla Károlyi[1] and upgraded her difficulty. In 1996 the 23-year-old Boginskaya nearly won the European All-Around Title, placing second behind then defending World All-Around Champion (and future Olympic All-Around Champion) Lilia Podkopayeva of Ukraine. She then progressed to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where she was one of a number of 'older' gymnasts competing. Boginskaya led her Belarus team to sixth place and competed in the all-around and vault finals, though medals were not forthcoming.

Svetlana Boginskaya is one of very few women in gymnastics history to have competed in three Olympic games. Others include Larisa Latynina, Věra Čáslavská, Ludmilla Tourischeva, Svetlana Khorkina, Dominique Dawes, Lisa Skinner, Oksana Chusovitina and Beth Tweddle. (It should be noted, however, that Boginskaya is the only one of the three-time Olympic participants in recent history to have competed when Compulsories were a requirement at each Olympic Game she participated in). She is one of only two gymnasts (the other being Oksana Chusovitina) to compete on three different Olympic teams: Soviet Union, Unified Team, and Belarus. She was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2005.[2]

After the 1992 Olympics, Boginskaya appeared alongside compatriot Vitaly Scherbo in the music video, "Revolution Earth," by The B-52's.

Today Boginskaya lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two children. She runs two businesses, an online gymnastics apparel retailer and a summer camp for gymnastics students, but she also considers herself a stay-at-home mother. In 2007 she started up a new pizza place in Katy, Texas.[3]


Boginskaya was noted for having more artistic and wildly different choreography than most of her competitors, especially on her floor exercise routines. Her floor routine at the Seoul Olympics was done to the music of Bizet's Carmen and her routine from the 1990-1991 season was choregraphed by the Bolshoi Ballet. She is admired for her elegant dramatic style especially since it came at a time when most gymnasts did cutesy dancing.

Another of her trademarks included dismounts in which she would land with her right foot placed slightly in front of her left.

Competitive history[edit]

Year Event Team AA VT UB BB FX
1987 World Championships 2nd 3rd
1988 Olympic Games 1st 3rd 1st 2nd
1989 European Championships 1st 1st 4th 4th 1st
World Championships 1st 1st 8th 1st
1990 European Championships 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
Goodwill Games 1st 2nd 3rd 1st
World Cup Final 2nd 3rd 4th 4th 1st
1991 World Championships 1st 2nd 5th 1st 7th
1992 European Championships 5th 8th 4th 1st
World Championships 2nd 6th
Olympic Games 1st 5th 4th 5th
1995 World Championships 8th 16th
1996 European Championships 4th 2nd 6th 6th 4th 6th
Olympic Games 6th 15th 5th
  • Competitor for Belarus
Year Competition Description Location Apparatus Rank-Final Score-Final Rank-Qualifying Score-Qualifying
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta Team 6 381.263
All-Around 13 38.499 25 76.223
Vault 5 9.712 9 19.474
Uneven Bars 64 18.587
Balance Beam 27 18.850
Floor Exercise 24 19.312
European Championships Birmingham Team 4 114.546
All-Around 2 39.106 4 38.898
Vault 6 9.662 5 9.737
Uneven Bars 6 9.725 7 9.737
Balance Beam 4 9.575 5 9.662
Floor Exercise 6 9.600 3 9.762
1995 World Championships Sabae Team 8 375.512
All-Around 16 38.261 14 76.461
Vault 23 18.925
Uneven Bars 29 19.124
Balance Beam 20 18.975
Floor Exercise 15 19.437
  • Competitor for CIS
Year Competition Description Location Apparatus Rank-Final Score-Final Rank-Qualifying Score-Qualifying
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona Team 1 395.666
All-Around 5 39.673 2 79.287
Vault 4 9.899 8 19.800
Uneven Bars 10 19.787
Balance Beam 5 9.862 2 19.800
Floor Exercise WD 1 19.900
World Championships Paris Vault 2 9.943
Vault (Semi−Final) 1 9.912
Vault (Qualification) 1 9.900
Balance Beam 6 9.750
  • Competitor for Belarus
Year Competition Description Location Apparatus Rank-Final Score-Final Rank-Qualifying Score-Qualifying
1992 European Championships Nantes All-Around 5 39.136
Vault 8 9.675 2 9.937
Uneven Bars 4 9.850 2 9.937
Balance Beam 1 9.950 1 9.937
Floor Exercise 44 9.325
  • Competitor for Soviet Union
Year Competition Description Location Apparatus Rank-Final Score-Final Rank-Qualifying Score-Qualifying
1991 World Championships Indianapolis Team 1 396.055
All-Around 2 39.736 1 79.548
Vault 5 9.850 1 19.837
Uneven Bars WD 1 19.912
Balance Beam 1 9.962 2 19.887
Floor Exercise 7 9.862 1 19.912
1990 World Cup Final Brussels All-Around 2 39.586
Vault 3 9.912 1 9.937
Uneven Bars 4 9.887 6 9.825
Balance Beam 4 9.887 2 9.887
Floor Exercise 1 9.962 1 9.937
European Championships Athens All-Around 1 39.874
Vault 1 9.943 1 10.000
Uneven Bars 1 9.950 1 9.975
Balance Beam 1 10.000 2 9.962
Floor Exercise 1 10.000 1 9.937
1989 World Championships Stuttgart Team 1 396.793
All-Around 1 39.900 79.262
Vault 19.925
Uneven Bars 8 9.450 19.925
Balance Beam 19.425
Floor Exercise 1 10.000 1 19.987

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "SVETLANA BOGINSKAYA". International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 12, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Olympic Champion Svetlana Boginskaya". Russian American Business. Retrieved October 14, 2008. 

External links[edit]