Andrianov’s Montreal gold rush - Gymnastics
Nikolay Andrianov was arguably the greatest of the many world-class gymnasts who rolled off the imperious Soviet production line.
To this day, Michael Phelps is the only man to have won more Olympic medals than the gymnast from Vladimir, 200km west of Moscow, and only a handful of Olympians have won more gold medals.
Raised by his mother along with three siblings, Andrianov showed immense early promise at school and by his mid-teens was winning a string of titles at regional level.
He forced his way into the Soviet national team at the age of 18 and at his first major international event he took gold in the vault and pommel horse at the 1971 European Championships in Madrid.
A year later he took gold on the biggest stage of all when he clinched victory in the floor exercises at the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich, where the all-conquering Japanese, who made up four of the top six places in the event, were left flabbergasted by Andrianov’s speed.
Three years later in Switzerland he practically swept the board with six golds in the Europeans, including the all-around title.
He went into the Montreal Olympics of 1976 as red-hot favourite for gold, despite Japan entering another formidable team.
At the Montreal Forum, he and his team-mates missed out on the team title by a whisker behind the Japanese, winning their fifth consecutive silver in the blue riband event.
He opened with a stunning display in the floor exercises, followed by a 9.7 in the pommel horse to give him an unassailable lead in the all-around competition.
Try as Japan’s Sawao Kato did to reduce the gap, Andrianov won by a point, sealing victory with a solid performance on the high bar.
Further gold medals followed in the vault, in which he edged out Japanese legend Mitsuo Tsukuhara, and then in the rings and his speciality event the floor exercises. He also added a silver in the parallel bars and bronze in the pommel horse.
Four years later his Olympic career ended in front of his adoring home fans at Moscow, when he clinched gold in the team competition and the vault.
Ironically, Andrianov went on to coach the Japanese Olympic team after his competitive retirement. Tragically, a degenerative nerve disease claimed his life at the age of just 58 in 2011.