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If you were to list the most successful gymnasts in WAG history, Lilia Podkopayeva would certainly be among them. Some gymnasts are successful because of their longevity, others are notable for being extremely dominant in a short period of time. For Lilia Podkopayeva, the latter was true. In 1995 Lilia won the AA at the World Championships and repeated her success by winning the Olympic AA in 1996.
In doing so Lilia became the first WAG to hold both titles simultaneously since Ludmilla Turischeva did it in 1974. It wouldn’t happen again until Simone Biles in 2016. Lilia was one of the few gymnasts who was on the losing end of the USSR breakup. Lilia would instead compete for Ukraine, a country that was unable to challenge traditional powers such as Russia, the United States, Romania, and China for a team medal. As a result, Lilia missed out on a team medal on three different occasions.
But competing for Ukraine had its perks. Her victory at the 1996 Olympics would prove monumental for a country that wasn’t an Olympic power. Lilia became a national heroine and a symbol of pride for a newly independent nation that had known mostly foreign rule for the last 1,000 years.
Olympics & World Championships:
This bio page is still a work in progress. A list of her full results will eventually be added here.