Once upon a time, a multisport international competition took place every four years. No, not the Olympics, but the Goodwill Games, created after the Olympic boycotts in 1980 and 1984 in order to promote (you guessed it) goodwill. Though the games were retired after 2001, significant memories and stars still remain from the heyday of Goodwill Games Glory. Oftentimes, the GWG gave gymnastics stars a chance to shine, even if they never saw the Olympics. When the Goodwill Games first began, they were held in traditional non-world championship years on the gymnastics calendar, allowing for countries to focus on this major event for grooming new stars. The competitions are well preserved on YouTube, so I hope you will go back and enjoy some of the routines! Below, The List highlights some notable performances.
The All-Around Champions Each champion of the GWG contributed significantly to the story of gymnastics for their time and for their country, and each had their own story that captivated crowds, both then and now, whether or not their success was matched at the Olympics or Worlds.
1986—Vera Kolesnikova USSR was not the probable star from the strong Soviet team, but after teammates and world champions Elena Shushunova and Oksana Omelianchik made uncharacteristic errors, Vera’s long lines and regal demeanor were triumphant. Of course, watching a 1986 Vera is exciting when we know that Viktoria Komova is her daughter. The comparisons are evident! Worth watching for the dismount–
1990—Natalia Kalinina USSR was also the new star for the Soviets who, like Vera, never saw an Olympic team. With precise performances, punctuated by a perfect 10 on floor, Natalia continued the great tradition of Soviet dominance, winning over her own legendary teammate Svetlana Boginskaya. Showing off a great set on the beam– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s-6C5QpXeE
1994—Dina Kochetkova RUS kept the all-around title on former Soviet soil, winning over two-time world all-around champion Shannon Miller (her first defeat since Barcelona). Armed with some of the best skills on bars and beam, Dina was the most consistent and dynamic of the competition. Her gold-medal clinching routine on floor–
1998—Dominique Moceanu USA was the first non-Soviet/Russian (and Olympic Champion) to win the title. While many had written Dominique off after her lackluster 1997 season, coaching changes, and growth spurt, GWG Domi was the gymnast her fans were thrilled to see. With serious upgrades and a newfound maturity, Dominque meant business, beating out the star-studded field. Working well on beam in the new code–
2001—Sabina Cojocar ROM competed in the first GWG held immediately after the Olympics and the last GWG contested. While the attention was on the Sydney stars and young American talent, it was Sabina’s consistency and strong execution that brought this title to Romania. Unfortunately, Sabina’s career was cut short by illness, so we never saw her in the Olympics, but 2001 provided a glimmer of hope for the new Romanian team. Showing nice combinations on the bars–
The Sad Story Any story about the Goodwill Games would be remiss if it did not mention Sang Lan CHN. While warming up on vault, Sang Lan was injured and paralyzed. Today, Sang Lan lives at home in China, advocates for those with disabilities, and is a mother, but this accident forever had a physical impact on her life and on the emotional psyche of gymnastics. We remember Sang Lan the gymnast as a young girl with a spring in her step, top skills, and ready to be a leader of the team in Sydney. Here is a piece about Sang Lan and her husband after she gave birth–
The Performances Elena Shushunova USSR 1986 Event Finals After winning silver in the all-around when she had hoped for gold, Elena came roaring back in event finals for three golds (vault, bars, and floor) and a silver (on beam, to Kolesnikova). Here is Elena’s radical new vault—a one and a half twisting Yurchenko!
Li Li CHN 1990 Beam Though this routine finished in 5th place, I think it is a thing of beauty—original, clean, exciting. Classic Chinese beam, complete with the Li Li back spin! While her dismount was considerably easier, the overall aesthetic of this routine is superior.
Oksana Fabrichnova RUS 1994 Beam Battling a bit of a fever throughout the competition, Oksana had a fall in the all-around on floor and overall appeared weak. But she pulled her strength out for her one event final and finished second on beam to Shannon Miller. With her delicate frame, Oksana’s power and big tricks come as a pleasant surprise. Coupled with unusual choreography and perfect toe point, Fabrichnova delighted the home crowd with this polished performance.
Svetlana Khorkina RUS 1998 Bars Am I being lazy for picking a Khorkina bar routine? I assure you, I am not! I really think this is one of Sveta’s best bar sets ever. In addition to her many European, World, and Olympic titles on this event, Svetlana also has the distinguish of being a three-time Goodwill Games champion on this event, as well as the first (and only) back-to-back Goodwill Games winner.
Sun Xiaojiao CHN 2001 Beam The definitive champion on beam with a 9.662 (sixth tenths ahead of the second place score), Sun Xiaojiao showed up with a beam routine ready for the new quadrennium, as these GWG were held the year after the Olympics.
While the Goodwill Games are thing from gymnastics past and part of era now long gone, we were allowed to see top-notch gymnasts in the middle of an Olympic cycle give great performances and create excitement for the upcoming Games. What do you best remember from the Goodwill Games?
Article by: Kristen Ras