Russian gymnast out to make amends for poor showing last year

CINCINNATI: Svetlana Khorkina (pic) will be looking to restore some bruised Russian egos when the world championships begin this week in California. 

Big reputations suffered badly at last year’s world championships as Khorkina surrendered her asymmetric bars supremacy and Russia, a traditional powerhouse of gymnastics, returned home with just one medal. 

But when this year’s championships begin in Anaheim, California on Saturday, Khorkina – a former Russian Playboy centrefold and aspiring Hollywood actress – will be well placed to make amends as well as movie deals. 

The competition, the 100th anniversary of the first world championships, is also being used as qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens so there is a lot at stake for the 91 competing nations. 

“I love new challenges,” Khorkina, the five-time Olympic medallist, told Reuters in an interview last week. 

“My strongest rival is myself. If I am capable of defeating myself, I shouldn’t bother with the others.” 

Last year in Hungary, the 24-year-old just about defeated herself, falling twice in the final of the uneven bars to leave empty-handed. 

It halted a dazzling trend which had seen her dominate the world championships from 1994. 

For Russia, Khorkina’s performance, as well as that of Elena Zamolodchikova and, for the men, Alexei Nemov, will help determine whether these championships can restore some of the country’s pride in the sport. 

“Our team is much stronger than at previous world championships,” Russia coach Leonid Arkayev said. “I cannot guarantee we will win everything (in Anaheim) but I believe we are ready to perform to our best.” 

These championships see the format of the competition revert to the team, all-around and individual event format after last year’s meet in Debrecen, Hungary, where only individual medals were up for grabs. – Reuters 

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