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Nellie Kim first emerged out of the junior ranks in the early 1970s where she battled Nadia Comaneci for the honor of being the best junior in the world. By 1974 Nellie had been promoted to the upper levels of the Soviet national team and was part of their World Championships team that year. However, Nellie’s performance was marred by health issues and she was unable to make a run in the AA race. But in spite of being handicapped, Nellie did manage to win a bronze medal on the balance beam.
By 1975 it could no longer be denied that Nellie had surpassed both Olga Korbut and Ludmilla Turischeva in ability. Despite making history by becoming the second gymnast after Nadia Comaneci to score a Perfect-10 at the 1976 Olympics, and being the top performing Soviet in Montreal, Nellie still had to share the spotlight with her two fellow superstars in the Soviet program.
Being stuck in the shadow of someone else would be a reoccurring theme throughout Nellie’s career. History seemed to repeat itself when Elena Mukhina became the face of the Soviet team over the next two years. In 1979 it seemed the stars had finally aligned in Nellie’s favor. The 1979 World Championships was notorious for its injury rate knocking out virtually every top gymnast including Mukhina and Nadia.
With all her rivals gone, for once Nellie had the spotlight all to herself, she won the AA title. Nellie completed her career by winning an Olympic gold medal on floor in a tie with Nadia. Even though the result was highly controversial, there was a sense of poetry in that moment. The Nellie-Nadia dynamic goes all the way back to 1972. Their 9-year personal rivalry was one of the best in WAG history, and what better way to complete it with the two standing side by side?
World Championships & Olympic Competition:
Jr. USSR Championships: 5th-AA
Druzhba: 1st-Team, 2nd-FX
Jr. USSR Championships: 2nd-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-UB
Chunichi Cup: 1st-AA
Druzhba: 1st-Team, 2nd-AA, 6th-VT, 2nd-UB, 2nd-FX
USSR Cup: 8th-AA, 1st-UB
Riga International: 2nd-AA
USSR Championships: 3rd-AA, 2nd-VT, 2nd-UB
USSR Cup: 2nd-AA
World Championship: 1st-Team, 9th-AA, 3rd-BB
Chunichi Cup: 4th AA
European Championships: 2nd-AA, 3rd-VT, 3rd-UB, 2nd-BB, 1st-FX
Moscow News: 1st-AA, 2nd-VT, 1st-UB, 1st-BB, 1st-FX
Pre-Olympics: 2nd-AA, 1st-VT, 2nd-UB, 1st-BB, 1st-FX
USSR Championships: 1st-AA, 2nd-VT, 1st-UB, 1st-BB, 1st-FX
USSR Cup: 2nd-AA
USSR Spartakiade: 1st-AA
Chunichi Cup: 15th-AA
Tokyo Cup: 1st-VT, 1st-BB, 1st-FX
Olympics: 1st-Team, 2nd-AA, 1st-VT, 6th-UB, 1st-FX
USSR Cup: 1st-AA
European Championships: 3rd-AA, 1st-VT, 4th-UB, 2nd-BB, 3rd-FX
USSR Cup: 16th-AA
World Championships: 1st-Team, 2nd-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-FX
USSR Championships: 5th-AA, 2nd-VT, 2nd-UB, 4th-BB, 1st-FX
USSR Spartakiade: 1st-Team, 3rd-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-UB, 1st-FX
World Championships: 2nd-Team, 1st-AA, 3rd-VT, 5th-UB, 2nd-BB, 2nd-FX
World Cup: 2nd-AA, 3rd-VT, 3rd-BB, 8th-FX
USSR Championships: 1st-AA
Olympics: 1st-Team, 5th-AA, 6th-UB, 1st-FX
Results are taken from Score for Score, The Gymternet, GymnasticGreats, My Meet Scores, Gymn-Forum, the official websites of various national gymnastics federations, newspaper clippings, classic gymnastics magazines, and in some cases, were provided by the gymnasts themselves. An explanation for the meaning of these symbols can be found here.