The lost art of Laschenova

One of the few gymnasts who combined genuine artistry with genuine power was the USSR’s Natalia Laschenova, who had the misfortune of being on the same Olympic team with 1988 Olympic champion Elena Shushunova and the great Svetlana Boginskaya.

Her “In the Hall of the Mountain King” routine is one of the great routines of the decade. How many elites today would be capable of doing a roundoff backhandspring double back from a hurdle like that?

Natalia Laschenova, 1989 World Championships All Around, Floor Exercise:

Laschenova retired in 1991 because of a loophole that would not allow Latvian gymnasts to compete at the 1992 Olympic Games. From Gymnastics Greats:

Although most former Soviet republics competed as “Team Unified” at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Baltic republics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) enjoyed restored Olympic status at these Games (i.e., Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians could not compete for team Unified in Barcelona, they had to compete for their respective countries instead)…Because Latvia did not compete as an individual nation at the 1991 World Championships (the qualifier for the 1992 Olympic gymnasts), Latvia could not qualify gymnasts to Barcelona.

Her name is linked with the men who robbed Vitaly Scherbo of his Olympic medals after the 1992 Games, prompting Scherbo to relocate to the United States (she was married to one of the men convicted of the robbery.)

Laschenova herself also later came to America, where she coached former Utah standout Nicolle Ford.

Laschenova was working a new floor routine at the time of her retirement, to George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” which she performed at the 1991 Spartakiade competition (poor quality video.) There’s also a video of her doing the routine in training.

Natalia Laschenova, 1991 Spartakiade All Around, Floor Exercise:


P.S. Her two-footed layout on balance beam rivals Shawn Johnson’s in height.

Natalia Laschenova, 1989 World Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

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5 Responses to “The lost art of Laschenova”

  1. Starksy Says:

    I know, I know, I know I’ll probably be the lone ranger on this BUT despite the great choreo and dance I’m really unimpressed by the lack of diversity in that tumbling. She does a back-in back-out four times. Yes its laid out the first time (and the first connection between the two passes is AMAZING) but the rest is the same. I get bored with the tumbling after the first pass.

  2. Starksy Says:

    P.S. the training video lets you see how massively she cowboys the tuck double too. Hideous!

  3. TCO Says:

    I don’t like the cowboying either. I think of the double layout as pretty different, but 3 double tucks is too many. She doesn’t even have a double pike. Or a full in.

    Btw, I once saw Peter Korman in his 30s and not in training, do a hurdle, round-off, full-in backout into the pit. He didn’t think anyone was watching.

  4. Marcus Says:

    she actually had harder tumbling

    her second pass was a tuck full-in for a while

  5. Sarah! Says:

    I was watching a Natalia FX from 1991 on youtube, where she fell on one of the passes, and a commenter said she was PREGNANT at this time. The commenter said she retired shortly after that and almost died giving birth to the baby. Naturally I can’t find anything online to substantiate this. Anybody here know anything? Sounds pretty wacky to me, but this IS Russia we’re talking about, and stranger things have happened.

    Also if a Natalia expert reads this and has any recent updates about her immigration issues, I would love to hear them!

    Thanks in advance.


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