The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame formally inducted four gymnastics champions on Saturday at its annual induction dinner in Oklahoma City, and issued awards to two other noteworthy gymnastics figures. Pictured: Yuri Korolyov, Lyubov Burda, Gina Gogean and Eduard Azaryan.
The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame formally inducted four gymnastics champions on Saturday at its annual induction dinner in Oklahoma City, and issued awards to two other noteworthy gymnastics figures.
The Hall of Fame honored Albert Azaryan (Armenia), Lyubov Burda (Russia), Gina Gogean (Romania) and Yuri Korolyov (Russia). Togther they won 11 Olympic and 35 world championship medals during their careers.
Azaryan, 84, was unable to travel, but his son, 1980 Olympic gold medalist Eduard Azaryan, accepted the award on his behalf. The younger Azaryan, who runs his own club in California, said his father last traveled to visit him five years ago and told him he's done with long trips.
"This is such a wonderful event," Eduard said. "I've met people I haven't seen for 30 years, like Lyubov Burda and Yuri Korolyov. Last night I spoke with my father and he told me I need to apologize that I couldn't make it."
Burda, two-time Olympic gold medalist (1968 and 1972) and world champion with the Soviet team in 1970, was previously inducted in 2001 but was unable to attend until this year.
"Gymnastics was always an esstential part of my life," said Burda, a member of the International Gymnastics Federation's Women's Technical Committee. "There is a Russian proverb that says, 'A man who does what he likes and also gets paid for it is a happy man.' I am that kind of person!"
Burda is the widow of previous inductee Nikolai Andrianov, who died in 2011 after a debilitating illness. She grew emotional when speaking of him.
"It breaks my heart to realize that two years ago [Nikolai] left us after a serious illness," she said. "But life goes on and we have to live for our future generation, and of course, for gymnastics."
Gogean, who competed in two Olympics and amassed 15 world medals between 1993 and 1997, began her speech by thanking her coaches.
"My career in gymnastics has reached a high level because of my coaches," she said.
Gogean is now a coach herself, as well as an international judge. Her pupils include Romanian junior national champion Asiana Peng, a hopeful for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I tried to be a positive example for the next generation," Gogean said. "I love gymnastics, it is my life. I am happy to be part of this beautiful family of gymnastics."
Korolyov won 13 world championship medals (nine gold) and became the first man in modern times to win two world all-around titles (1981 and 1985).
"This is a great honor for me to be inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame," he said. "I am sure that together we will continue to promote our favorite sport in the future."
The Hall of Fame also recognized Japan Gymnastic Association President Hidenori Futagi, who receive International Order of Merit Award. The award recognizes people who have made a significant contribution to the development, the maintaining of harmony, and the advancement of participation and appreciation for the sport of gymnastics in their home country and around the world. Futagi previously received the International Gymnastics Federation's inaurugal FIG Order. He spearheaded Japan's organization the successful 2011 World Championships in Tokyo after the devastating earthquake that caused a tsunami and nuclear disasters.
Futagi was humble in the company of so many champions.
"Unlike the others, I am not a gymnast," he said. "I am a business person."
Though not a gymnastics technician himself, Futagi but shared his view that gymnastics must emphasize beauty and artistry if it is to continue to inspire worldwide audiences.
2011 world champion Jordyn Wieber was also on hand as the first recipient of the Nadia Comaneci Sportsmanship Award. The award honors a currently competitive or recently retired gymnast who has demonstrated great sportsmanship or fair play. Wieber received the award for her graciousness during competition, most notably for helping the U.S. women win the team title at the 2012 Olympic Games after her own disappointment of not advancing to the all-around final.
"I can't tell you how honored I am to receive this award," she said. "There's no doubt that gymnastics is one of the most challenging sports. I was also faced with the challenge of mental expectations. I was definitely sad and upset (in London). Gymnastics has taught me that the unexpected will happen. Good sportsmanship is the foundation for success."
External Link: International Gymnastics Hall of Fame