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International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inducts Five
(24 votes, average 3.58 out of 5)

Five legends were honored at the 13th annual International Gymnastics Hall of Fame induction dinner Saturday night in Oklahoma City. Margaret Sikkens Ahlquist (Sweden), Octavian Bellu (Romania), Elvira Saadi (Uzbekistan), Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus) and Dominique Dawes (U.S.) stand by their portraits.

Five legends were honored at the 13th annual International Gymnastics Hall of Fame induction dinner Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

The addition of Octavian Bellu (Romania), the late Viktor Chukarin (Ukraine), Dominique Dawes (U.S.), Elvira Saadi (Uzbekistan) and Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus) brings the total Hall of Fame membership to 69 individuals from 20 countries.

Sweden's Margaret Sikkens Ahlquist, president of the International Gymnastics Federation's Gymnastics for All Committee, received the International Order of Merit.

The 2009 induction class combined to win 47 Olympic medals and 91 world championship medals.

Bellu, the second coach to be inducted after compatriot Bela Karolyi (1997), piloted the Romanian women's team to five consecutive world team titles (1994-2001) and two Olympic team golds (2000-04). Never one to sing his own praises, Bellu conceded how touched he was to receive the call to the Hall of Fame.

"If they decide that for me to be in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, now I am sure I did a good job," he said humbly. "Gymnastics was my life, and I tried to do my best."

Bellu, who now works as an adviser for all sports in Romania, expressed the fact that coaches are rarely remembered in history, which made the evening that much more special for him.

"We are not the stars," he said. "The stars are the gymnasts. We accept to be on the back stage."

Bellu closed with the realization that he was now in the Hall of Fame with some of his past pupils. "So now I'm with my former gymnasts in the same family," he said. "So what is better than this?"

Chukarin, who passed away in 1984, was an example of patience and perseverance. After serving in World War II, during which he spent time as a POW in a concentration camp, Chukarin went on to win seven gold medals combined in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, including back-to-back all-around titles.

Saadi, now a successful coach whose pupils included Tatiana Groshkova (Soviet Union) and Yvonne Tousek (Canada), delivered her acceptance speech with the same passion she exuded as a competitor. A gold medalist with the Soviet Union at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, Saadi stood out for her dramatic choreography and soulful expression.

"I never had a goal to be the best," said Saadi, the first native of Uzbekistan to be inducted. "I am a person who can feel gymnastics."

Prior to each award a video montage was shown of each inductee. Saadi's included her floor routine to "Carmen," which simply mesmerized the gathered guests, many of whom traveled from around the world to attend. Saadi was visibly moved, and said she had never seen herself perform. In tears by the end of her speech, she claimed to have been a "spoiled child, actually, because my mother let me do what I want."

And that was gymnastics.

Six gold medals in one Olympics has been surpassed only twice, so Scherbo is in rare company in Olympic record books. That's what he accomplished at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and he remained the man to beat for the next couple of years, as well. Still with the same boyish grin, Scherbo entertained the dinner crowd much as he did gymnastics arenas. He compared his oppressive upbringing in the former Soviet Union with the freedoms he now enjoys as a U.S. citizen and gym owner in Las Vegas. He joked and promised not to cry, because he was a man.

When he competed, he was the man. He knew it, and everyone else knew it. He called himself the "bad boy" of gymnastics.

"There is supposed to be someone bad, right?" quipped Scherbo, whose 23 world and 10 Olympic medals is a gymnastics record.

But Scherbo showed a softer side during his speech. "It's a privilege to be inducted with so many monsters of gymnastics," he said, adding that words were "not enough to explain what's happening in my soul right now."

Indeed, the Hall of Fame humbled the great Vitaly Scherbo.

1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes was the final inductee of the evening, and she began by admitting that awards really don't affect her much. By the end of her speech, it was obvious this one did. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Dawes credited much of everything she has accomplished as a gymnast and a person to her former coach and forever mentor Kelli Hill.

"She has been my role model since I was 6 and is still my role model at 32," Dawes said. "I stand here today accepting this award on her behalf."

Emcee Bart Conner had opened the ceremony with a tribute to Hall of Fame founder Glenn Sundby, who passed away in March, and closed with a simple thought that seemed to characterize the evening perfectly.

"Excellence is inspiring," he said.

Comments (10)add comment

Anamaria said:

Bellu looks just like Stalin in the painting smilies/smiley.gif))
May 31, 2009
Votes: -4

Wrong said:

Dominique Dawes being in the Gymnastics Hall of Fame is a joke. Do I need to go to a list of people that deserve it over her?

May 31, 2009
Votes: -5

GymFAN72 said:

I wouldn't say Dawes is a joke because she's been doing a lot since then, although I think others are more deserving.

I think BELU being inducted is a joke!!!! Why is it that the only two coaches are Romanian???
June 01, 2009
Votes: +0

Sovieticus said:

World and Olympic champions like Natalia Yurchenko, Aurelia Dobre, Oksana Omelianchik, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Henrietta Onodi, Dina Kochetkova, Tatiana Gutsu and Svetlana Khorkina don't deserve to be inducted but American Dominique Dawes does. I hope Kerri Strug goes in next year.
June 01, 2009
Votes: -1

Helen said:

I think the Hall of Fame is a great thing but some of the induction choices do seem strange.... smilies/shocked.gif
June 01, 2009
Votes: +1

Patrik said:

'Most Successful Coach-world record set by Octavian Bellu

[Dec 1] BUCHAREST, Romania--Octavian Bellu, 56, Romanian gymnastics coach, has set the world record as the Most Successful Coach: 16 Olympics Gold Medals and a total of 279* (*updated to 305) medals at World and European Championships and Olympic Games'

Well Bellu is in the guiness world records as the most successful coach IN THE WHOLE HISTORY (in every field not only gimnastics!) so it's normal to be there.

BTW who's Dawes, never heard of him/her???? did she won 16 Olympics Gold Medals to be here??
June 01, 2009
Votes: -3

Stephanie Schupak said:

Dominque Dawes
I was very happy for Dominque Dawes was inducted into the hall of fame. Dominque has kept on going with her gymnastics after competetions she was in. I been at several gymnastics events and watched Dawes be humble about her success being supportive of other gymnastics. Gymnastics is not just about winning medals. It is how you use your gymnastics to grow and teach you something. Dominique has done a lot after gymnastics so she deserves it.

I agree with the previous comment about other gymnasts being inducted. I think they try to get gymnastics older and younger to be inducted to have variety.

June 03, 2009
Votes: +1

gradstudent said:

I agree, Dawes being inducted is ridiculous. I'm a fan of her gymnastics but she had no individual aa medals in worlds or Olympics, and only had 4 (I think) individual medals total in worlds/Olympics, none of them gold.
June 18, 2009
Votes: -1

Downtime QC said:

Dawes being inductive is not weird--She was like the only gymnast I can remember who soa the csl it was bound to happen eventually--did they mention it the IG Hall of Fame that how'd
she get nominated because of her inability to hit the last event in every AA-Final I can remember...Back then, everytime Dawes was up, I always knew it would become all blurry for us. She should be inducted solely on the basis that it was often other gymnasts would walk about with the medals she let fly away on their chests.
July 07, 2009
Votes: +0

Teengirl said:

Dominique Dawes
But Dominique Dawes did break down a lot of doors for African Americans in the sport of gymnastics. There has not been a bigger AA name in it than hers. And she did have some mean skills. True, she didn't win any major medals, but she has won more national titles than any other gymnast male or female. And she has done so much for the community and keeps promoting gymnastics and gives back to the sport a lot.
November 14, 2009
Votes: +1

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