Olga, Nadia… Kim?
An often-overlooked artistic gymnast. Have you ever heard of her?
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Watching the Olympic gymnastics competition at the 2012 London games, I was transported back in time – specifically 1976 – where gymnastics was a little different. The female gymnasts were more womanly and elegant, unlike today where they have transformed into waifish little girls. Nellie Kim was such a gymnast, having a more feminine, wholesome figure. She was from the former Soviet Union. Her mother Alfiya was a Tatar. Her father Vladimir Kim was a Sakhalin Korean.
In her Olympic career, she won a total of five gold medals – three in 1976 (team, vault and floor) and two in 1980 (team and floor). She also received two perfect 10’s – one for the vault and one for the floor exercise – the first woman ever to do so on those two events. (Yes, even before the great Nadia Comaneci, who received the first perfect score ever on the uneven bars.) Additionally, she’s the first gymnast to perform the Tsukahara vault with a full twist in Olympic competition, earning her a silver medal in the all-around event; as well as the double back salto – the first ever done by a woman at the Olympics. She’s also the 1979 World All-Around champion.
Nellie Kim is remembered for her feminine style and beauty, having Nadia’s intensity, Olga Korbut’s flamboyance and Ludmilla Tourischeva’s grace. They don’t make gymnasts like they used to. How times have changed.
Portrait of Nellie Kim.
Nellie Kim with her father Vladimir Kim and younger brother Alexander and little sister Irina. Both her siblings also took up gymnastics for awhile.
Nellie putting powdered chalk on her hands for a better grip.
Nellie training on the balance beam.
Nellie performing her floor exercise routine.
Nellie performing on the uneven bars.
Nellie competing on the balance beam.
Look at those socks!
Nellie Kim performing her floor exercise routine and receiving a perfect 10 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Note that she does the double back salto in the tucked position in one of her tumbling passes.
Ms. Kim performing her Tsukahara vault with a full twist and receiving a perfect 10 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Nellie performing on the uneven bars at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
There once was a gymnast from Kazakhstan
Who could perform tricks better than any man
Tumbling and flipping with ease
Moving gracefully like a lissome breeze
Proving always that she’s an elegant woman