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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Where are they now?
BBC Sport Online's Tracie Simpson takes a look at some of gymnastics stars of the past.


Nadia Comaneci

The Romanian is arguably the most recognisable name in the sport. She shot to international stardom at the tender age of 15 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics where she became the first Olympic gymnast to score a perfect 10.

It came in the compulsory team exercises on the bars but technology was such that her miraculous effort had to be recorded as 1.00 - the score board did not go up to four figures.

Comaneci went on to score six more perfect 10s at Montreal, and picked up three golds, (including the individual gold) one silver and one bronze medal.

Like many young superstars Comaneci struggled with the intense pressure of her fame. There were constant concerns about her weight gains. In 1978 she was admitted to hospital after drinking bleach, and there were rumours she had attempted suicide.

But Comaneci made an astonishing comeback at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. She won two golds and a silver and only lost the individual title by the narrowest of margins to Yelena Davydova.

Comaneci officially retired in 1984 aged 22. Five years later she fled socialist Romania and sought asylum in the United States.

It was there that she became re-acquainted with American Bart Connor. In 1991 Connor invited Comaneci to move to Oklahoma where he ran a gymnastics academy. Five years later the pair were married in Romania.

Comaneci finished the millennium with a host of awards and citations as one of the great female athletes of the century.

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Olga Korbut

While many see Nadia Comaneci as the definitive gymnast, most agree that it was the charismatic Belarussian Olga Korbut who changed the sport forever.

Korbut and her coach Renald Knysh broke new ground by gaining permission for Korbut to compete at senior level at just 14 (the required age at the time was 16).

In the years leading up to the 1972 Munich Olympics the pair revolutionised the sport. Moves like the Korbut Salto (a backward aerial somersault on the beam), the Korbut Flip (a backward flip release move on the bars) and the Korbut Flic-flac (on the beam) are still among the most difficult moves in the sport.

In Munich Korbut stunned the world with such innovative moves and her endearing smile. And while she missed out on the all-round title after a mistake on the bars she went on to win gold in the individual beam and floor exercises and silver on the uneven bars.

Korbut retired in 1977 and the following year married the Russian musician Leonid Borkevich, whom she'd met on a plane journey in the United States. The couple had a son, Richard, in 1979.

In the 1980s Olga spent much of her time coaching young Russian gymnasts and also took up other interests, including horse riding - in which she became a nationally ranked equestrienne.

A personal turning-point came in 1986 at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. Determined to help the victims of the tragedy she used her celebrity status to raise awareness and money. She became a victim herself, contracting a thyroid condition.

In 1991 Korbut and her family emigrated to the United States, and she started up as a freelance gymnast teacher in Atlanta. She remains an outspoken supporter of the sport and now has her own gymnastics school.

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Mary Lou Retton

In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles Mary Lou Retton became the first American woman to win an individual gold medal in the Olympic gymnastics.

She won gold in the women's all-round event by scoring a perfect ten in the vault (the final event of the competition) and also went on to win two silver medals for the team and vault plus two bronze medals, for uneven bars and the floor exercise.

Her five medals were the most won by any athlete at the 1984 Olympic Games.

So what ever happened to the bubbly teenager who wooed the fans in Los Angeles?

Retton's wholesome, all-American exuberance led to many commercial endorsements after the '84 Olympics. She became the face on the front of the Wheaties cereal boxes in America (the first woman even to be honoured in such a way).

She has also starred in several U.S soap-operas, among them Baywatch, Knots landing and Guiding Light. The 1994 movie Naked Gun 33 1/3 also sits amongst her credits.

Retton, who is now married to an investment broker and has two daughters, is also a television commentator, author, corporate speaker and chairperson of the Children's Miracle Network.

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Mitch Gaylord

Gaylord became the first American gymnast to score a perfect 10 helping the US team to a gold medal victory. Gaylord also went on to win silver for vaulting and two bronze medals for the rings and parallel bars.

He invented two spectacular skills at those Olympics, the Gaylord Flip and the Gaylord Two, and these are still considered two of the most difficult feats in gymnastics.

After the Olympics, he was appointed to the President's Council for Physical Fitness by Ronald Reagan and carried out numerous speaking assignments throughout the US.

In 1986 he made his acting debut in the film American Anthem and two years later had his own television series, Fan Club. He has also acted as a stunt man and has appeared in commercials for Diet Coke and Levi's.

Gaylord, now 39, is still competing but has turned his attention to trampolining. He trialled for the US trampolining team for the Sydney Olympics but was unsuccessful.

He is also a busy public speaker and is writing a book. He now lives in Southern Califronia with his wife and three children.

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Li Ning

In the early 1980s Li Ning's talent seemed almost unmatchable. At the 1982 World Cup the Chinese gymnast won the all-round title and five other individual events.

A year later he was beaten, though, by the startling performances of Dmitri Bilozerchev. However, the Russian's absence from the boycotted 1984 Olympics meant Li had the chance to shine again. He won three gold medals in the floor, pommel horse and rings while the team won bronze.

After a poor showing the 1988 Olympics he returned to China and became a businessman, setting up a sportswear company. He is also a former international judge and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation.

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Dimitri Bilozerchev

The Soviet athlete is considered by many to be the greatest male gymnast of all time. Bilozerchev picked up his first ever world title at just 16 at the 1983 World Championships.

But he was perhaps one of the most unluckiest Olympians. Because of the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles Bilozerchev was denied the Olympic title that most people in the world of gymnastics expected would have been his. Then a year later he was involved in a serious car accident that almost cost him his leg. Tests showed he had been drinking.

Bilozerchev was warned he might never walk again, but he ignored the advice and headed back into training and in 1987 miraculously picked up his second world title.

He was again favourite to win the Olympic title in 1988 but poor judgement on the even bars put paid to that and he ended up with the bronze. He did however go on to win individual golds for the pommel horse and rings.

Bilozerchev was kicked out of the Soviet team after the 1988 Olympics for breaking training. He went to the United States in 1991 for a professional event and has remained there since.

He now coaches young gymnasts in Oregon and is married to choreographer Olga.

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Yelena Davydova

Davydova broke the hearts of every Nadia Comaneci fan at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when she stole the Olympic champion's title from under her nose. The battle ended in controversy when the judges spent almost half an hour locked in heated debate before award the Russian the title.

In 1991, after she retiring from competitive gymnastics, Davydova emigrated to Canada, with her husband Pavel, a former boxing coach.

She is a now a top national coach and is in part responsible for turning Canada's Sarah Deegan into a top medal hope for the Sydney Olympics.

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