5 Things to Know About Olympic Gymnast Lilia Podkopayeva
Retired Ukrainian gymnast Lilia Podkopayeva was the 1995 world all-around champion and earned the 1996 Olympic all-around title one year later — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since in women’s gymnastics.
She was a complete all-arounder
Few gymnasts have rivaled Lilia Podkopayeva’s prowess across all four events. Though her career was short, she won a world or Olympic medal on every event at either the 1995 worlds or 1996 Olympics (vault: gold 1995; bars: silver 1995; beam: silver 1995 & 1996; floor: gold 1996). She had impeccable form, artistry and dance ability, and impressive power, so she excelled on every apparatus.
She did original skills—and got them named after her
Podkopayeva had three skills named after her while she was competing: a round-off half-on to front pike-half vault, and a double front and double front-half on floor. She also performed two hop fulls to a Gienger on bars and a Rueda (a back pike swing down) and full-in dismount off beam.
1995 was her coming-out year
Podkopayeva competed at worlds in 1993 and 1994, earning an individual silver on beam in Brisbane in 1994 and placing sixth all-around. But it was in 1995 that she really came into her own. Podkopayeva won the all-around over Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina by a little over .100, with scores that ranged from a 9.787 on beam to a 9.850 on floor.
She also qualified to all four event finals and earned three more medals: Podkopayeva tied for gold with Romania’s Simona Amanar on vault, tied for the silver on bars (with Mo Huilan of China), and tied for silver again on beam, with American Dominique Moceanu. Her only mistake came on floor, where she ended up seventh (again tied with Moceanu), after crashing her double front-half mount.
She backed it up in 1996
After the 1995 worlds, Lilia Podkopayeva was an obvious favorite for the Olympic all-around crown one year later. But with a stacked field that included medal threats like Khorkina, Mo, Amanar, Dina Kotchetkova, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Lavinia Milosovici, and Gina Gogean, among others, it wouldn’t be easy to back up her world title with an all-around one.
Podkopayeva was first after the preliminary optional and compulsory rounds, but scores were wiped clean for the all-around finals. In the finals, she won gold by nearly .2 over Romania’s Gogean, with high marks on every event: 9.781 (vault); 9.800 (bars); 9.787 (beam); 9.887 (floor). She carried her momentum to the event finals, where she had qualified on three events, and medaled on two, earning gold on floor and silver on beam — a fitting finale to her winning streak.
She now has two children
Lilia Podkopayeva was born on Aug. 15, 1978, in Donetsk, Ukraine.
She married Timofei Nagorny in 2004, and they have two children, Vadim (adopted in July 2006) and Karolina, born in November 2006. The couple divorced in 2009.
Podkopayeva was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2008. She’s appeared on Ukraine’s “Dancing with the Stars” twice, winning the competition in 2007.
Podkopayeva’s Gymnastics Results:
- 1996 Olympics (Atlanta, Georgia): 1st all-around; 2nd beam; 1st floor
- 1996 European Championships (Birmingham, Great Britain): 3rd team; 3rd vault; 1st all-around; 1st bars; 1st floor
- 1995 World Championships (Sabae, Japan): 1st all-around; 1st vault; 2nd bars; 2nd beam
- 1994 World Championships (Brisbane, Australia): 2nd beam
- 1994 European Championships (Stockholm, Sweden): 3rd team; 3rd vault; 2nd beam; 1st floor