The latest comeback kid: Russian Lyudmila Yezhova (now Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova), who at 25 is no longer a kid.
Doesn’t seem so long ago when Fan Ye and Yezhova went 1-2 on balance beam at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim.
Fan’s routine in event finals, which received a whopping 9.812, was described by one as “the closest one has come to perfection” in a very long time.
Fan Ye, 2003 World Championshiops Event Finals, Balance Beam:
But Yezhova was no slouch either.
Lyudmila Yezhova, 2003 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:
Both appeared again at last weekend’s Glasgow Grand Prix, where Grebenkova signalled her return to the international scene by taking top honors on her best event. It wasn’t quite the rivalry of 2003. Fan, eighth in the qualifying round, improved to finish fourth.
As she, Zamo and Khorkina proved at the 2004 Olympic Games, Russians are able to maintain top skills despite achieving a so-called “advanced” age. But if Grebenkova makes the 2008 Russian team, she’ll be one of the first to make her comeback and actually compete for the mother country.
Others who have been considered too old to contribute to traditional Eastern-bloc powerhouse teams have migrated to other countries — Oksana Chusovitina bounced from Uzbekistan to Germany (and trained for a short period of time in the United States), while Viktoria Karpenko and 1996 Olympian Yevgenia Kuznetsova emigrated to Bulgaria. Former Ukranian Alona Kvasha is rumored to be training for Australia.
Alona Kvasha, 2000 Olympics Team Qualification, Floor Exercise:
It’s worth noting that the mother country could certainly use someone like Grebenkova right now. Yelena Zamolodchikova looks more like a shadow of her former self every year, Svetlana Khorkina has finally disappeared, Anna Pavlova still lacks consistency, Nadezhda Ivanova retired with an illness, Yulia Lozhechko is off the team until further notice and many of the fabulous Russian juniors everyone spent 2006 reading about have been injured. The door is wide open.