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Svetlana Khorkina (Russian: Светлана Хоркина) was born January 19th, 1979 in Belgorod, Russia. She is a well known Russian gymnast and seven-time Olympic medalist and a member of the political party of United Russia since 2003. She was elected as a deputy for the Russian State Duma in 2007 and served there until 2011. With nine gold, eight silver, and three bronze World Championships medals, she is one of the most successful female gymnasts of her era and has been cited as a favorite of gymnastics enthusists in various polls in gymnastics magazines. Khorkina is also notable because she was able to continue competing and winning medals for more than a decade. She won her final World Championships all-around title at the age of 24 in 2003 which tied her with Věra Čáslavská as the second oldest female World Champion, second to Larisa Latynina who won her second World All Around title in 1962 at the age of 27. In her career she won 47 World, Olympic and European medals. Khorkina won more medals ( 7 Gold and 3 Silver) in major All-Around Championships than any other gymnast — male or female. Khorkina is known for her expressive dance, extreme difficulty, and innovative routines. She has also been heavily criticized for bad sportsmanship and is notorious for proclaiming herself the winner in events where she did not win. Khorkina is known for being a diva, but has embraced such charges, saying:
"I don't mind. I wouldn't have been called a diva or a queen if I wasn't creative. My costume and make-up were always important to me. When people come to see gymnastics they want a performance, not just a sport. I have a talent. I have accomplished so much in sport it will take dozens of years before anyone else achieves as much."
At 1.65 meters or 5 feet 5 inches in height, Khorkina was unusually tall for gymnastics. Known for her long, elegant lines, she was discouraged from gymnastics because of this height, but with the help of her lifelong coach Boris Pilkin, she created new moves to accommodate her height and exploit her strengths. She has an unprecedented 8 moves named after her in the Artistic Gymnastics Code of Points. Her most successful apparatus was the uneven bars, where she won a total of two Olympic and five World Championships titles between 1995 and 2001. She was also the first gymnast to win three all-around titles at the World Championships. Khorkina won at least one gold medal at every World Championships and Olympic Games between 1995 and 2003. Khorkina won her first senior international medals at the 1994 World Championships in Brisbane - a silver medal for the vault and another silver on the uneven bars. She was even more successful at the European Championships later that year where she tied for silver in the all-around with teammate Dina Kochetkova and won the bars competition outright. Khorkina also competed at the Goodwill Games and Team World Championships that year. Her first All-Around win came at the 1995 European Cup, where she also won medals on vault, uneven bars and in the floor exercise. She was expected to be a top contender for All-Around gold at the World Championships later that year. She omitted a triple twist in her floor exercise instead pulling off only a double. This resulted in low scoring for the routine, but solid performances on beam and vault and a stellar showing on the bars helped her to clinch a silver medal behind Ukrainian Lilia Podkopayeva. In the uneven bars final, Khorkina won the gold medal with an incredible 9.90, beating Mo Huilan of China. This was the first of many world titles to come.
Khorkina became the one to watch, with long lean lines and top acrobatic and execution skills. Her physical glamour of blonde hair and steel grey eyes competed with her emotional ambitions and intensely patriotic but forthright personality. Like her compatriot Aleksei Nemov, Khorkina's performances over the next four years were uneven. Khorkina might perform solidly or accede to the pressure that felled many other gymnasts. Scoring was a hot topic. In the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, changes in the Code of Points were expected to negatively affect Khorkina, but she clinched her first world all-around title after a spectacular finish on the bars, earning her the highest score of the championship. She beat Olympic vault champion Simona Amânar into second place, a scenario that was also repeated in the 1998 European Championships.
In the two years after winning the world title, Khorkina tempered excellence with occasional inconsistency. Yet her skills were difficult and innovative in all events, especially on the uneven bars and balance beam. On the bars, she continued to dominate; she was soon nicknamed the "Queen of the Bars".
In 2003, Khorkina admitted that gymnastics took its toll on her body, that she had begun to "feel her age", but vowed to return to the Olympics for a third time. At the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, California she became World All-Around champion for a third time, a feat that had never been accomplished by any woman. Khorkina went into the 2004 Athens Olympics as one of the favorites and her last Olympic games. Somewhat underpar in the preliminaries, nonetheless she qualified to the all-around and bars finals. In the team competition, her solid performances helped Russia to a surprise bronze, and their delight at this result was in stark contrast to the reaction to the silver at the two previous Games (the 1996 and 2000 Russian teams were considered contenders for the gold, while the 2004 squad was not as strong).
In the all-around competition, she won silver behind the American Carly Patterson. She had been leading after two events, but wobbled on beam and an incomplete triple spin on floor, in addition to the fact that Patterson's floor exercise and beam routines had higher difficulty, allowed Patterson to move ahead and take the title. In a press conference after the medal ceremony Khorkina claimed that Patterson only won because she was American before stating that this was only a joke and that she, Khorkina, was still Olympic champion. It is unclear whether Khorkina meant that she was the rightful champion of the 2004 all-around, or was referring to the fact that she was the reigning bars champion after her victory in Sydney. However, in a later interview with a Russian newspaper, Izvestia, Khorkina claimed that Patterson's win was fixed and that it had been decided in advance, citing the lengthy delay in posting her vault score whilst judges conferred.
The sports complex at the Belgorod State University in Belgorod, her native city, was named in honour of Khorkina. Khorkina has enjoyed almost as much attention for her activities outside the gym. She posed nude/topless for the Russian version of Playboy in November 1997 and posed for the Russian version of Maxim right before the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She has aspirations to become an actress, and has taken to the stage as Brenda Venus, Henry Miller's last love, in a Sergei Vinogradov production. She claimed that she did not have the patience to coach. She turned to motherhood and gave birth to her first child, a son named Svyatoslav, on July 21st of 2005 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, thus giving her child American citizenship. The father of the child is still unknown, and because of that it is still creates speculation in the Russian tabloids. Khorkina gave her own surname Khorkin (Russian: Хоркин) to her son. Although she likes to be in the spotlight, she keeps her private life out of public view.
On May 2nd of 2011 Russian tabloid newspaper Express Gazeta reported that Khorkina has been married to a 55 year old former FSB general, Oleg Konchev. According to Svetlana's father the couple married between April 15th and 17th. The traditional tournament Cup Khorkina took place in Belgorod from the 15th to the 17th of April. At some point, Khorkina and Konchev supposedly escaped to the capital and there they were married.
On March 12th of 2007 in her native city of Belgorod, the sport complex of the Belgorod State University was opened. The complex was named after Svetlana. At the front of the complex there is a statue of her as well. For the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games she was a commentator for the Artistic gymnastics competitions for the Russian TV station NTV+. Her autobiography was published on April 22nd of 2008. The title of the book is Somersaults on High Heels. The book is published by Olma-Press and available at Amazon by clicking on the book title above. Her second book, which focuses on fitness and avoiding sport injuries was released in May 2009 and is called Fitness as a Hobby and Bodies, by the same publisher. In August 2009, she announced, that she working on a 3rd book, in which she plan to share beauty secrets. The working title of this upcoming book is Image and Beauty of Champions.
Khorkina received the Order of Honour from Russian President Vladimir Putin on 8 June 2001. Khorkina has been a member of the political party of United Russia since 2003. She was elected as a member of the United Russia party to the Russian State Duma in 2007. She is a deputy chairwoman of the Duma’s Youth Affairs Committee. On July 19th of 2009 at the Russian State Council of youth session, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev casually mentioned appointing Khorkina as governor. Khorkina later said of the comment:
“Of course it’s a very flattering offer, but I understand that I need to study a lot for this and I have just begun this journey and am only beginning my work in politics.”
As of 2009, Khorkina is studying for her second degree, in public service. She obtained her first degree from Belgorod State University in her hometown.