Oksana Omelianchik is one of the most iconic gymnasts of the 1980s, but one of the lesser known details about her career is that she had some rather unique leotards. The problem is, few know about them as Oksana never wore them in major competitions.
Tatiana Groshkova’s Red-Rose leotard is one of the most widely known leotards within Soviet gymnastics, but Oksana Omelianchik was actually wearing an alternate version of this leotard a few years before Groshkova debuted it. It was only in the past month that the footage of Omelianchik wearing this leotard surfaced on YouTube. It is from a 1987 display tour in West Germany. The above photo is most likely taken from a Soviet display in London.
Omelianchik is typically associated with the 1985-1988 Olympic quad, but she was also a major factor in 1984 as well. Oksana competed in nearly all of the major competitions on the Soviet domestic circuit that year. She did so while wearing this red and white leotard.
I couldn’t find a colorized photo of this particular leotard, so I took some competition footage instead. I nickname this the “superhero leo” because it looks like what would happen if Soviet-style leotard designers and a comic book artist got together and had a brainstorming session.
The same leotard would be worn by Silivia Mitova while she competed as a junior in 1989.
At the 1986 USSR Cup Omelianchik wore the following leotard.
And a different angle can be found below.
At the 1987 World Championships Omelianchik wore this leotard in podium training, but not during the actual competition.
The pink leotard she wore at the 1985 European Championships and 1985 Moscow News is the closest Omelianchik ever came to having her own trademark leotard. Although it was hardly all that out of the ordinary. Its design follows one of the most popular templates of the era. While pink it not the most common color gymnasts wear, it isn’t exactly an uncommon color choice either. This specific leotard itself would be frequently worn by other famous Soviet gymnasts. And yet it is the only notable occasion that Omelianchik wore a leotard at a major competition that wasn’t also a team leotard.
This one is virtually identical, but it abandons the Addias-style stripe pattern in favor of one thick stripe and a rounded collar rather than a V-Neck.
There is yet another Omelianchik pink leo. This one with two giant shades of white. One from the right collarbone to the left hip. The other from the left shoulder and down the arm. Note the completely empty seats in the stands. When Omelianchik brought a non-traditional leotard out of her bag, it was almost always a training session or a minor competition.
The pattern of the leotard can be better understood in the black and white picture below. Note the right side of the picture where you can see the white extending all the way from the shoulder down the entire length of her left arm.
There are two reasons I decided to take the time to produce this post. The first is to share the pictures of these wonderful leotards that I’m sure every gymnastics fan will enjoy. But the second reason is to talk about one of the interesting parameters of Oksana Omelianchik. When it comes to Oksana Omelianchik, she can be described as one athlete, but two different gymnasts.
An example of this can be seen in her choice of floor music. During the first half of her career her floor music which is widely known as simply “The Bird Song.” It is a song made to exemplify limitless energy and childhood spirt. But during the second half of her career she used a song called “Ballet Russe” which exemplifies maturity and composure.
The two selections are polar opposites in what they are supposed to represent. And yet both were performed brilliantly and the two are on the short list of floor routines that are widely considered masterpieces amongst gymnastics fans. The ability to master two different interpretations of the apparatus is classic Omelianchik. She mastered two different roles and presented herself in two different ways. Her leotard choices were an extension of that.
One of the most interesting and unique leotards Davydova wore during in her career came at a display tour.
At the 1989 Konica Cup Natalia Laschenova wore this leo which requires a GIF in order to do it justice.
It is something of a trend for Soviet gymnasts to reserve their most interesting leotards for either a non-major competition, or a display tour, and then take a more traditional/conformist approach towards a high profile competition. But few ever took this trend to such an extreme as Oksana Omelianchik. Going through photos of Omelianchik is a constant game of “I don’t recognize that leotard” as they were absent from all major competitions. But what those same photos reveal, Omelianchik had one of the best leotard collections of any gymnast.
And finally, it would be criminal to finish an Omelianchik post filled with pictures and not include this one: