Svetlana Leonidovna Boginskaya (Belarusian: Святлана Леанідаўна Багінская; born February 9, 1973) is a Soviet/Unified Team/Belarusiangymnast. 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. It was a huge accomplishment for the young athlete in an Olympic Games that revolved around the duel between her teammate Elena Shushunova and Romania's star Daniela Silivaş.
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.
A heartbroken 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 Bela Karolyi She stunned audiences worldwide by competing with more difficult routines than ever before, and with an endlessly positive attitude. 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 delighted the crowds and 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.
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.