Thursday, July 26, 2012

Great Olympic Streaks: Gymnastics

We're down to the final two entries of our daily series. Today, the sport is gymnastics. We're looking at athletes who have had "unparalleled" success, pardon the pun.

Athletes used to have greater longevity in the sport, which is now dominated by youth (with some exceptions). Some of the best-known gymnasts of the last generation, such as Mary Lou Retton, only competed in one Olympiad. Hence, records for gold medals in consecutive Olympics are held by athletes from earlier eras.

It is hard to match the former Soviet Union for gymnasts who excelled over long Olympic careers. These include the all-time record-holder for most Olympic medals in any sport, "Larisa Latynina, who competed in three Olympic Games (1956 to 1964) and won a staggering total of 18 medals, half of which were of the gold variety;" and Nikolai Andrianov, master of the floor exercise in his era, winning gold in 1972 and ’76, and silver in ’80.

Other gymnasts who performed at an elite level through two or more Olympiad include:
  • Japan’s Sawao Kato, winner of the men’s all-around gold medal in 1968 and ’72, and silver medalist in ‘76.
  • Romania’s Nadia Comaneci (3 golds in ’76, 2 in ‘80), best known as the “first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event.” In addition, Comaneci is married to Bart Conner, a former U.S. gymnastics great.
  • Vera Caslavska (Czech Republic), “one of only two female gymnasts, along with Soviet Larisa Latynina, to win the all-around gold medal at two consecutive Olympics.”
In addition to the athletes' Wikipedia pages (linked to each person's name), a very helpful source is this all-time list.

In tomorrow's final entry of the series, we'll look at what I consider the most impressive Olympic streak, one that came to a most controversial end (hint, hint).

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