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Larisa Latynina, a record-breaking gymnast

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Larisa Latynina

Larissa Latynina is a Russian and Soviet gymnast, who dominated female gymnastics, collecting a record 18 Olympic medals between 1956 and 1964. Latynina, holds the distinction of having won the most medals of any athlete in Olympic history, male or female. She was the only female athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals and was responsible for establishing the Soviet Union as the dominant force in gymnastics. She also holds the record for most individual medals (14 outside of team events) in Olympic history.

Larisa Latynina was born in 1934 in Kherson, USSR. She first practiced ballet, but turned to gymnastics as the choreography studio had closed. She continued her training while studying in Polytechnic Institute in Kiev and was coached by Alexander Mishakov. At the age of 19, she debuted internationally at the 1954 Rome World Championships, winning the gold medal in the team competition.

Two years later, Larissa won the all-around gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics and became the most successful gymnast of the Olympics. After a very successful World Championships in 1958 (winning five out of six titles despite competing whilst pregnant), Latynina was the favorite for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. In the all-around event she led the Soviet Union to take the first four places, thereby also securing a win in the team competition by a margin of nine points. Latynina also successfully defended her floor title, took silver medals in the balance beam and uneven bars events, and bronze in the vault competition.

In the next years Latynuna won a medals in every event in which she competed, except for the 1956 balance beam where she came fourth. Her nine gold medals makes her second on the list of most Olympic gold medalists together with Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi, only behind Michael Phelps, who has 14; she held the distinction of having more Olympic gold medals (either individually or with a team) than anybody ever, from 1964 to 2008, until Michael Phelps beat her record.

Latynina retired after the 1966 World Championships and became a coach for the Soviet national gymnastics team, a position she held until 1977. She organized the gymnastics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

She is a citizen of Russia, and lives in her estate near the town Semenovskoye, Moscow region.

Latynina was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1985

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