Larisa Latynina vs Michael Phelps

We love sports, don’t we? And we love the Olympic Games even more. Two weeks of watching those competitions we never care about, hypnotized in front of the tv set with sports we don’t know about, with sportsmen we’ve never heard of… and yet we watch it.After all, they are the Olympic Games!

In the 2012 Summer Olympic in London, American swimmer Michael Phelps became a bigger legend than he already was. He’s now the sportsman with most Olympic medals in history. He surpassed former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who held the record for 48 years.

Who is Larisa Latynima?

She is a 77 year old living legend, with her residence in a town not far from Moscow. Her life was linked to gymnastics since she was a kid when, after trying ballet, she turned to that sport. Between 1956 and 1964 she won 14 individual Olympic medals and four team medals. Her total of 18 Olympic medals was a record between 1964 until 2012. She still holds some records, like being the woman with most medals and other achievements related to the sport she practiced.

Latynina is credited with helping to establish the Soviet Union as a dominant force in gymnastics. She retired after the 1966 World Championships and became a coach for the Soviet national gymnastics team, a position she held until 1977. Under her coaching the Soviet women won team gold in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics. She also organized the gymnastics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

The day her record was broken

On Tuesday July 31st 2012, when Michal Phelps beat Latynima’s record, she was there at the Aquatics Centre in London watching the swimming competition. She knew that what was going to happen and she wanted to be there. She told about it: “I saw him swim, and I saw my record swim away”. Larisa Latynima said that she doesn’t regret that her record was broken because Phelps deserved it.

“He did a great job. As an athlete, I could only be happy to see that there is such a talented athlete out there who was able to break that record”.

The record Phelps won’t take from her

No doubt that both Phelps and Latynima played a big role in sports history. Both broke records and Phelps took an important one from her. But there’s an achievement that only Larisa Tatynima could make. She won 5 gold medals in the World Championships in 1958 when she was four months pregnant. We’re sure Phelps won’t try to beat that one.

P.S. This post was written by my friend, one of the founders of the RussianForFree project – Jose. Let’s thank himand ask for a new posts and tips on learning Russian!