Alexy Bilozerchev, USA: A long time ago (OK, a little more than a year ago), when the Hamm twins were still making their comeback and it seemed Sasha Artemev was guarenteed a spot on the 2008 Olympic team, I theorized that Alexy Bilozerchev was going to be the next, um, Dmitri Bilozerchev.
Like father like son and all that.
Never mind that winning a junior national championship means even less if you’re a guy than if you’re a woman. Never mind that he competed with the seniors during the second day of competition and finished in 10th place. Never mind that nobody’s really seen what this kid looks like.
Alexy Bilozerchev is almost certainly the next great U.S. champion.
He’s a new face cloaked with an old name, and he could help bring the U.S. men back to dominance the way his father helped the Soviet Union achieve gymnastics greatness.
Alexy may very well be the next big thing in gymnastics, but coming off his 2007 U.S. Junior title, he was not one of the major stories of 2008. Oh, well, maybe in 2009.
There’s good reason to expect a lot from Alexy, even though he’s all of 17. Heck, by the time his father Dmitri was 17 (a reference I’m sure he hears a lot more than he wants to), he was a World Champion.
Dmitri Bilozerchev was one of the Soviet greats. His story is one of dominant victory, a literally shattering injury, victory again and finally Olympic almost-victory.
…if his career is anything like his father’s Alexy will one day wind up in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
At age 16 in 1983, Dmitri Bilozerchev was the top gymnast in the world. He had class, he had style, he made it look so, so easy. But in 1985, just before the World Championships, he crashed his car into a tree, shattering his left leg. The only reason it wasn’t amputated was because a few minutes before the leg was to be removed, somebody recognized that he was the best gymnast in the U.S.S.R.
A more subdued, grown up Bilozerchev appeared at the 1987 World Championships in Rotterdam, Holland and reclaimed his world title. At the 1988 Olympics, Bilozerchev was poised to take the gold medal, but his coach told him not to water down his high bar routine to protect his lead. Bilozertchev made a small mistake and wound up third.
Alexy Bilozerchev, a freshman at Ohio State (where Dmitri is an assistant coach to Miles Avery) is tall for a male gymnast (picture his 5’9″ frame next to Jon Horton’s 5’3″ish one). His 2008 season was successful if not spectacular (fourth at the 2008 U.S. Men’s Qualifier, 10th at the U.S. Championships on vault and pommel horse.) I’m expecting more this year.
So, apparently, is Dmitri.
“It’s his sport,” Bilozerchev said of his son in 2007. “Of course everybody knows who I am. Or who I was. But he’s going to get what he deserves. He’s put in so much work. He makes it by himself.”