4 Things to Know About Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina

4 Things to Know About Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina

Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina at the Sydney Olympics
Steve Lange

Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina was a three-time world all-around champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist on bars. She is one of the all-time greats in the sport.

Here's a closer peek at the so-called "queen of the bars"—four interesting facts about Khorkina: 

1. She Was a Three-Time World Champ

Khorkina's career was amazing, not only for its length (she competed internationally for more than 10 years) but also for her continued success over so many years.

She won her first world all-around title in 1997, then earned two more all-around golds at the 2001 and 2003 worlds, respectively.

2. She Never Won All-Around Gold

The Olympic all-around title eluded her, however, despite three Olympic appearances. In 1996, a fall on bars cost her a shot at the gold.

In 2000, Khorkina crashed her vault and later it was discovered that the vault had been set too low. It was a huge mistake by the meet organizers, and the gymnasts were allowed to compete again with the vault at the correct height, but it was too late for Khorkina, who had fallen off the uneven bars after her fall on vault. The competition is still regarded as highly controversial. Many argue that Khorkina would not have fallen had she thought she still had a shot at the title.

In 2004, Khorkina finally had a fall-free Olympic competition but placed second to American Carly Patterson. Ironically, she had edged Patterson for the gold at the worlds in 2003. Khorkina later was quoted as saying to ESPN, "I'm just furious. I knew well in advance, even before I stepped on the stage for my first event, that I was going to lose."

3. She Was Queen of the Bars

Khorkina won an enormous number of bar titles during her career, including two Olympic golds (1996 and 2000) and five world golds (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2001).

When she didn't win, it was almost always because she made a major error, not because another competitor was better. Throughout her career, Khorkina continuously added new skills to her bar routine, making it more and more difficult and helping her maintain status as one of the best in the world on the event.

4. She Brought Unique Skills

Khorkina was also a great inventor of new skills. At 5 foot 5 inches (1.65 meters) tall, she stood several inches taller than most other gymnasts. This seemed to inspire her to come up with creative new skills that worked with her body type.

Today, she has skills named after her on every event in the Code of Points. She is probably best-known for the Khorkina vaults (one, a round-off to half-on to a piked Cuervo off, and the other a round-off to half-on to a tucked Rudi off) and Khorkina bar releases (Shaposhnikova with a half twist, and front giant to half turn hecht over the bar).

Competition Results

  • 2004 Olympics (Athens, Greece): 3rd team; 2nd all-around
  • 2003 world championships (Anaheim, California, USA): 1st all-around
  • 2001 world championships (Ghent, Belgium): 2nd team; 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 3rd floor
  • 2000 Olympics (Sydney, Australia): 2nd team; 1st bars
  • 1999 world championships (Tianjin, China): 2nd team; 1st bars; 3rd floor
  • 1997 world championships (Lausanne, Switzerland): 2nd team; 1st all-around; 1st bars; 2nd beam; 2nd floor
  • 1996 Olympics (Atlanta, Ga. USA): 2nd team; 1st bars; 2nd floor
  • 1996 world championships (San Juan, Puerto Rico): 1st bars
  • 1995 world championships (Sabae, Japan): 2nd all-around; 1st bars
  • 1994 team world championships (Dortmund, Germany): 3rd team
  • 1994 individual world championships (Melbourne, Australia): 2nd vault; 2nd bars