Late ’70s Soviet-era Gymnastics Documentary features Filatova and Mukhina

Here is a late-1970s Soviet gymnastics documentary aiming to show the hard work involved in gymnastics (and to make a heroes out of the coaches), and to deconstruct, on the one hand, the facile television glamor of gymnastics, and to manufacture, on the other hand, a sugar-coated version of the special treatment the coaches lavish on their gymnasts received outside of the gym. Some of the non-training scenes are obviously staged (such as the sumptuous meal the girls sit down to, which differs greatly from the stories told by gymnasts such as Olga Korbut, who on breaks were often found behind the gym smoking cigarettes to quell theĀ  hunger pangs), and often the gymnasts have astonished looks on their faces, as if they’ve never experienced anything like this until the official cameras were there.

Despite the more propagandistic aspects, the extensive look inside the training gym is fascinating.

In addition to promoting the tailor-made “little darling gymnast” Maria Filatova, it very prominently also features the tragically-fated Yelena Mukhina. Mukhina can be seen repeatedly trying to master the Korbut Flip on the bars (which she soon did, and then some, adding a full twist in competition before the move was forever banned by the FIG). Later, her coach reportedly fled the country and never coached gymnastics again after her tragic training accident just prior to the 1980 Olympic Games. Mukhina, paralyzed, died in 2006 in almost total obscurity. This film is from an era when the coaches received as much adulation and glory as the gymnasts, and some coaches were sometimes more focused on the reputation they gained having trained a champion than they were on the well-being of their gymnasts. Mukhina is only the most tragic example of where such misguided priorities could lead.

This video is from the multimedia archive of anna-pavlova.net, and there’s a version on YouTube split into three parts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RW9_GSOzX0). There is a version to which YouTube user MissLyra has painstakingly added English subtitles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdzS_IwclxM).