Vitaly Scherbo

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Vitaly Scherbo
— Gymnast —
Country represented  Belarus
Former countries represented Olympic flag.svg Unified Team,  Soviet Union
Born (1972-01-13) 13 January 1972 (age 42)
Minsk
Height 169 centimetres (5 ft 7 in)
Discipline Men's artistic gymnastics

Vitaly Venediktovich Scherbo (or Shcherbo) (Russian: Виталий Венедиктович Щербо, Belarusian: Віталь Венядзіктавіч Шчэрба), born 13 January 1972 in Minsk, Byelorussian SSR, is a Belarusian former artistic gymnast. One of the most successful gymnasts of all time, he is the only male gymnast ever to have won a world title in all 8 events (Individual All-Around in 1993, Team in 1991, Floor in 1994, 1995 and 1996, Horizontal Bar in 1994, Parallel Bars in 1993 and 1995, Pommel Horse in 1992, Rings in 1992, Vault in 1993 and 1994). He was the most successful athlete at the 1992 Summer Olympics, winning 6 of 8 events - team, all-around, and 4 of 6 event finals.

History[edit]

Scherbo was introduced to gymnastics at age 7 by his mother. The coaches at his local club arranged for him to be sent to a state boarding school for young athletes. There he continued to delight and infuriate his tutors in equal measure, making huge progress as a gymnast but refusing to submit to any discipline. His first international performances were in 1990–1991, when he competed for the USSR team at the World Championship and the World Cup. He was the 1991 World All-Around silver medalist behind teammate Grigori Misutin; scored a perfect 10.0 on the vault at the European Championships in 1990; and starred at the Goodwill Games in Seattle. He had occasional bouts of inconsistency and as the 1992 Barcelona Olympics approached, the Unified Team coaches regarded him as less of a medal prospect than his more experienced and reliable teammates. In one of the most dominant performances in history, Scherbo won six out of the possible eight awarded gold medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. His golds came in the team event, the all around, pommel horse (tie), rings, vault, and parallel bars. Only Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz have ever won more golds in a single Games, and only Phelps and Eric Heiden have won as many individual gold medals (five) at a single Games.[citation needed]

Soon after the 1992 Olympics, Scherbo married his wife Irina. However, life in Scherbo's native Belarus became increasingly turbulent, and his family was frequently victimized. Their apartment was burgled, wherein money, valuables, and Olympic memorabilia was stolen. Fortunately, no one was home at the time, and his six gold medals from Barcelona were safely at his mother's house. The family promptly relocated to the United States, settling in State College, Pennsylvania. The move enabled them to take advantage of Scherbo's Olympic success. He followed up on his Olympic triumph by winning the 1993 World All-Around title, and the 1993 and 1994 American Cup, as well as numerous individual apparatus medals on the way.[citation needed]

In 1996, his wife Irina was involved in an horrific single car accident, in which she skidded off a road and slammed into a tree. She suffered multiple fractures to her ribs and pelvis, lapsed into a coma, and her internal injuries were so severe that doctors told her husband that she only had a 1 in 100 chance of surviving. Scherbo stayed with his wife every day, and abruptly stopped his training altogether. He gained 15 pounds, and began abusing alcohol. After a month, Irina finally woke up from her coma, and insisted that her husband resume his training for the upcoming Olympic season. As his wife made a miraculous recovery, Scherbo similarly began to regain tip top physical condition winning yet another World title in 1996. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, his performances reflected his lack of preparation time due both to his wife's accident and to recent shoulder surgery. His performances were marred by uncharacteristic mistakes, and the gold medals that had made him so famous were not forthcoming. Though Scherbo was clearly disappointed and frustrated at his inability to win gold, he was a decided crowd favorite and they clearly viewed his four bronze medals as an impressive triumph after a tumultuous year. His popularity was demonstrated when he received a rapturous reception from the crowd at the post competition gala. Scherbo had planned to compete in the 1997 World Championships, but broke his hand in a motorcycle accident beforehand, and retired soon after. He resides and works in Las Vegas, where he owns and runs his own gymnasium.

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