10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
Gymnastics is certainly one of the most difficult sport disciplines, requiring strength, agility and coordination. The female artistic gymnastics include exercises on vault, uneven (asymmetric) bars, balance beam and floor. Making a list of the greatest athletes is likely to be controversial and will not satisfy some people who will feel the disappointment that their favorite athlete is not on the list.
Comments (28)|29 Liked It
My criteria for making the list are: a.) the gymnast must have won at least one all-around World or Olympic title; and b.) she must have at least two World or Olympic titles on any apparatus, as well. (For those who feel disappointed that their favorite athletes were not included, I sincerely apologize for there are many gymnasts who did not both criteria but are nevertheless considered great gymnasts as well, like Lavinia Miloşovici, Gina Gogean, Olga Korbut, Daniela Silivas, Dominique Moceanu, Mo Huilan and a lot more.)
As follows are my top 10 greatest female gymnasts in history:
1. Svetlana Khorkina (Russia)
Having won seven Olympic medals and twenty World championship medals, this unusually tall gymnast is considered to be one of the most popular and most successful gymnasts of her generation. She is the very first gymnast to win three World all-around titles (1997, 2001 and 2003). She earned the nickname “Queen of the Bars” for her unrivaled domination on uneven bars, where she won five consecutive World titles (1995-1997, 1999, 2001) and two consecutive Olympic titles (1996, 2000). She is best known for her expressive and elegant dance, as well as for her extremely difficult and innovative routines, with unprecedented eight skills named after her in the Code of Points.
2. Larissa Latynina (USSR / Russia)
Two-time Olympic (1956, 1960) and two-time World (1958, 1962) all-around champion. She still holds the record for having won the most number of Olympic medals at eighteen (nine gold medals, five silver and four bronze). Trained in ballet, she was known for her graceful movements on floor exercise, where she won three consecutive Olympic titles (1956, 1960 and 1964).
3. Svetlana Boginskaya (USSR / Belarus)
The 1989 World all-around champion and three-time Olympic medallist, who was nicknamed the “Goddess of Gymnastics” and “Belarusian Swan” because of her stature, balletic grace, and long elegant lines that was most eminently exhibited in most of her routines, especially on floor exercise. In 1990, she swept the European Gymnastics Championships by winning the gold in every individual event.
4. Ludmilla Tourischeva (USSR / Ukraine)
The 1970 and 1974 World all-around champion. She was regarded as the epitome of the Soviet style gymnastics: grace, classiness, perfect form and flawless technique. Although she won the all-around title in the 1972 Munich Olympics, she was largely overshadowed by the unexpected fame of her compatriot Olga Korbut, whose exceptional acrobatic skills and open display of emotion, in contrast to the typical stoic expression of eastern bloc athletes, enraptured world audiences.
5. Věra Čáslavská (Czechoslovakia)
One of only two female gymnasts, along with Larissa Latynina of the USSR, to win two consecutive all-around Olympic titles (1964, 1968). She holds the record of most Olympic individual event titles than any other gymnasts, a record that still stands today. She was well known for her cheerful demeanor and extraordinary stage presence; and at the same time, she was also revered for her courage in openly voicing her opposition to communism and the Soviet invasion of her country during the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
6. Yelena Shushunova (USSR / Russia)
1985 World and 1988 Olympic all-around champion. She is best known for her powerful vaulting and difficult tumbling as well as her matchless consistency, having won medals on every apparatus including world titles on vault (1985, 1987) and floor exercise (1985).
7. Nadia Comăneci (Romania)
The media darling of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where she became the very first gymnast at any Olympics to be awarded a perfect score of 10 and would eventually earn six more 10s, on the way to capturing the all-around, uneven bars and balance beam title. At only age 14, she was the youngest ever Olympics gymnastics all-around champion. She is credited, along with Olga Korbut, for popularizing the sport all over the world.
8. Shannon Miller (USA)
The 1993 and 1994 all-around World Champion and the 1996 Olympics balance beam gold medallist. With a total of sixteen World championship and Olympic medals, she is certainly the most decorated gymnast in American history. She is best remembered for her performance in the Individual All-around at the 1992 Olympic Games, where she missed the gold by the tiniest margin (0.012) in Olympic history.
9. Nellie Kim (USSR / Tajikistan)
The 1979 World all-around champion. She was the first woman in Olympic history to receive a perfect score of 10 on vault and floor exercise, winning the gold medal on both. She was admired not only for her feminine beauty but also for her flamboyance, gracefulness and intensity that marked her every routine.
10. Lilia Podkopayeva (Ukraine)
The first female gymnast since Ludmilla Tourischeva to simultaneously hold the European (1996), World (1995), and Olympic (1996) all-around titles. She was frequently described as the “complete package” gymnast, possessing impressive excellence in both technical skill and artistic expression with no apparent weakness in any of the four apparatus. Her routines were characterized as a combination of stylish choreography, clean execution, perfect form and exceptionally difficult skills.
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise