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24 Jul 1980
Moscow 1980

Gymnast Dityatin emerges from the shadows

Alexander Dityatin finally emerged from the shadow of fellow Russian gymnast Nikolai Andrianov in spectacular fashion at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

Andrianov had been the darling of the men’s event in Montreal four years earlier, dazzling the crowd with a clinical display which saw him net four gold medals, including in the blue riband all-around event.

Dityatin, a fresh-faced 19-year-old who had seen little international competition before arriving in Canada, finished fourth overall in the all around, a mere half point behind Japanese great Mitsuo Tsukahara in the bronze medal position.

He also secured impressive silvers in the team event and in the rings, and his raw talent was evident.

Dityatin had been a late developer, and his height had rocketed after a promising junior championship career. By the time he arrived in Montreal his new frame was not quite honed, and the prowess which would electrify his home crowd four years later had not quite been refined.

At the World Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1979, it was clear that Russia had discovered an heir to Andrianov’s throne.

Dityatin led Russia to the team gold and won the all around gold before securing victory in the vault, an event that would see him enter the record books in Moscow.

By the time the competition at the Moscow Sports Palace got under way in 1980, the Russian media was abuzz about the clash between their two stars.

The two trailed Bulgarian Stoyev Deltchev after the opening horizontal bars, but after that it developed into a head to head between the two home favourites.

Dityatin edged into the lead after the parallel bars, but he really set the crowd alight with an unforgettable vault, recording the first ever perfect 10 in a men’s Olympic competition, four years after the great Nadia Comaneci had done so for the women in Montreal.

Andrianov kept nagging at the heels of his compatriot, and despite an under-par final floor exercise Dityatin had done enough to cling on to the gold.

He would go on to take eight medals in Moscow, four of them gold, the most by any individual in a single Games, before a training injury ended his career soon afterwards.

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