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23 Jul 1952
Helsinki 1952

Bocharova's golden balancing act

Despite the fact that three years had passed since Nina Bocharova had won the all-around title at the USSR Championships, she was still one of the best gymnasts in the world when she arrived in Helsinki. Her problem was that one of her main rivals was her team-mate Mariya Horokhovska.

The two had dominated the USSR all-around competition for some time, with Horokhovska getting the upper hand in the years preceding Helsinki 1952. But the pressures of the Olympic environment were different – it was the first time the Soviet Union had sent a team, and it was the first time that women would be competing in individual events.

The all-around competition lived up to its billing, with the two Soviet gymnasts locked in an intriguing contest, in which Horokhovska eventually prevailed. Bocharova’s golden moment was yet to come. First, she produced a magnificent display to top the podium in the balance beam.

She then played a key role in the team competition as the Soviet Union won by a convincing margin ahead of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And she added a further silver medal in an event called “team exercise with portable apparatus”, which featured at the 1952 and 1956 Games, but has not been seen since.

Bocharova remained fit and active into her later years, helping to encourage others to take up sport and still participating long after most people have settled back into armchairs. She was also the first torchbearer of the 2004 Olympic torch relay when it entered Ukraine.


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