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Olga Mostepanova first captured the attention of fans everywhere with her appearance at a pair of competitions held on British soil in 1980. The young Mostepanova did not win, but had kept pace with gymnasts who were part of the Moscow Olympics. The world was staggered that a gymnast as young as 12 years old could perform so well alongside established veterans.
While gymnastics fans everywhere were losing their minds over the next Soviet whiz-kid, the Soviets themselves were privately snickering at the reaction. It would later be revealed that Mostepanova’s age had been falsified and she was actually a ten year old! By 1983 Mostepanova was showing promise with a silver medal in the AA at the World Championships that year. After the gymnast who finished ahead of her that year was injured in competition, Olga Mostepanova was effectively the top ranked gymnast heading into the 1984 Olympics.
But Mostepanova would not get the chance to compete in Los Angeles due to the 1984 boycott. Instead Mostepanova would have to settle for the alternate Olympics where she scored 12 Perfect-10s and achieved the highly coveted “Perfect-40,” a Perfect-10 on every event. It is widely considered one of the greatest performances in gymnastics history.
To add insult to injury, Mostepanova’s trademark move was not entered into the Code of Points under her name. It was instead credited to Henrietta Onodi. Mostepanova’s career ended unceremoniously when she was pulled from the 1985 World Championships to be replaced by a younger gymnast. Despite being robbed at every turn and denied the opportunity to have an official legacy, gymnastics fans have seemed fit to make sure she has one by continuing to hold her in high regard. Remembering the story of the best that never was.
World Championships & Olympic Competition:
Druzhba: 1st Team, 5th-AA
Jr. URS-ITA Dual Meet: 1st-Team, 4th-AA
Champions All: 3rd-AA
Coca Cola International: 4th-AA, 3rd-BB, 1st-FX
Jr. USSR Championships: 4th-AA, 3rd-BB
Jr. USSR Cup: 2nd-AA, 1st-BB
All-Union Championships of Specialized Sports Schools: 1st-AA
Druzhba: 1st Team, 3rd AA, 1st-VT, 1st-UB, 4th-FX
Jr. GDR-URS Dual Meet: 2nd-AA
Schoolchildren’s Spartakiade: 1st-Team, 5th-AA, 5th-UB, 5th-FX
Jr. European Championships: 3rd-AA, 2nd-VT, 7th-UB, 1st-BB
Riga International: 1st-AA
USA-URS Dual Meet: 1st Team, 4th-AA
USSR Championships: 3rd AA, 3rd-VT, 2nd-UB, 3rd-BB, 2nd-FX
USSR Cup: 3rd-AA, 5th-VT, 3rd-UB, 2nd-BB
Moscow News: 3rd-AA, 3rd-BB
Moscow Spartakiade: 1st-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-BB
USA-USSR Dual Meet: 1st-Team, 2nd-AA
USSR Championships: 8th-AA, 2nd-UB
USSR Cup: 2nd-AA, 7th-VT, 1st-UB, 1st-BB
World Championships: 1st-Team, 2nd-AA, 1st-BB, 2nd-FX
USSR Championships: 2nd-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-BB, 3rd-UB, 4th-FX
USSR Cup: 1st-AA
Alternate Olympics: 1st-Team, 1st-AA, 1st-VT, 1st-BB, 1st-FX
USSR Championships: 6th-UB, 7th-FX
USSR Cup: 8th-AA
World Championships: 1st-Team
Articles Featuring Olga Mostepanova:
How the 1980 Olympic Boycott Altered the Career of Olga Mostepanova
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.