|SHUSHUNOVA Elena Russia
Discipline: Womens Artistic
|Last update: 05/09/2011|
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One of the top Soviet stars in the 1980s, Elena was known for her willpower. She possessed a remarkable ability to turn setbacks into success, and was rewarted with the Olympic title at the end of her career.
She started gymnastics at the age of six in St. Petersburg (thenLeningrad), where her family lived in a small apartement. Enven at that age her ambition was obvious. After two years she was moved up to an advanced class with older girls. She began competing in prestigious events as young as twelve years old.
Her first major international was in 1982, the junior Europeans. Although two falls from the beam meant she could only finish 15th overall, she bounced back in finals to take the floor gold.
In 1985 Elena became senior European champion before heading to Canada for the world championchips. Both she and best friend Oksana Omelianchik were tipped to win several medals, but it focused, Elena fell off asymmetric bars twice during the team competition. The humiliation was worse because it was the compulsories, but this just made her even more determined to do well.
Sure enough, in optionals she produced brilliant routines, scoring a ten on floor. Despite the fact that she had not qualified to the overall final, the team coaches realised she had the ability to become world champion, so she was substitued into the overall final.
Both Elena and Oksana Omelianchik produced fantastic routines to end up as joint world champions. In apparatusfinals, Elena won a gold on vault, silver on floor and bronze on beam-an amazing result after such a bad start to the championships!
However, a new rival was emerging-Romania's Daniela Silivas. In 1986, Elena beat Daniela at the world Cup, but in 1987 in front of a home crowd in Moscow, she suffered defeat at the European championships-Daniela won, with Elena taking bronze overall.
But once again, Elena learnt from her defeat. Later that year she was back with a vengeance at the world championships in Rotterdam although the competition did not begin well for Elena when the Soviet girls lost the team title to Romania.
Elena missed out on the overall gold medal by a whisper, taking silver behind Romania's Aurelia Dobre. As before, Elena still don't give up, and left Rotterdam with two golds, a silver and a bronze in finals.
1988 was a year dedicated to Olympic preparation. Elena had a new floor routine and a positive outlook. The battle for overall honours between her and Daniela was one of the most closely fought in gymnastics history. In the end, Elena's intense powers of concentration won the day-and the Olympic title was hers
Since those Olympics, Elena has taken part in displays and now has a desk job at the Sports Committee in St. Petersburg. She is married to a car mechanic called Youri-they first met when she took her car into his garage to get repaired! They have on son, a five-year-old called Mikhail.