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Svetlana Boginskaya: I was always a bitch* in gymnastics

Svetlana Boginskaya, 15 years old, with her medals from the Seoul Olympics

Nico translates the latest interview with gymnastics legend Svetlana Boginskaya, during a recent visit to her home country of Belarus.

Svetlana Boginskaya: I was always a bitch* in gymnastics, so now I ask for forgiveness from everyone who came in contact with me.

The National Olympic Committee of Belarus held a press conference with three-time Olympic Champion in artistic gymnastics, Svetlana Boginskaya. The meeting was devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Olympic Games in Seoul. In South Korea the Belarussian won two gold medals in the team competition and vault.

As a gift to the Olympic Hall of fame, the famous gymnast, now living in the United States, donated one of her trophies that she won at the 1990 European Championships and a pennant for Best Female Athlete of the USSR in 1989.

How happy we were when we could share with such stars as Boginskaya, Scherbo, and Ivankov, who fought for the top spots at major competitions. Nowadays fans are deprived of all that because Belarussian gymnastics is down and can’t get back up.

-Do you have a formula for its revival?

Boginskaya: You know, I still don’t know too well about it to expose the diagnosis. You probably won’t believe me, but I flew home for the first time since moving to the United States. For example, I haven’t seen my brother in fifteen years. The fact is that I was very afraid of flying with the birth of my daughter. It was only five years ago that I eased up a little on this plan. Finally, by encouragement of my husband, I decided to travel to my homeland.

I honestly admit that I only have a vague idea on the current situation of Belarussian gymnastics. But I hope to sit down with the women’s head coach, Antonina Vladimirovna Koshel, and discuss the points where I can help our team. In general, everything became complicated after the breakup of the USSR. Russia was the same for a long while not being able to show anything serious at the world level. We need good conditions, we need coaching staff, we need high salaries, we need modern equipment, and that’s not all. We still need to find that pearl that will become a star on a planetary scale in the near future. Some of the kids are a little spoiled, free of discipline, and they say that’s how it should be, so they don’t make any kind of effort. It’s such a consumerist attitude toward the sport. We weren’t like that; I worked my guts off like hell in the gym! They would say, “do a thousand V-ups,” I would do 1200. I would die and do it.

I was a bitch in gymnastics. Ugh, it must have not been easy for others around me. Now I can only ask for forgiveness from everyone who came in contact with a gymnast named Boginskaya for her antics. But who knows, maybe the only way to reach the top is to burn yourself in the fire of self-improvement. 

*Translator’s note: Boginskaya openly calls herself a ‘bitch’ in this interview. All three major dictionaries I looked into for the word стерва (sterva) gave ‘bitch’ as the primary translation. Clearly she meant to admit her hard character from back in the day!


  1. I think sterva translates more to trash. it basically derives from old peace of cloth.

    1. I'd say sterva translates as a bitch (modern variant, less offensive ). Sterva isn't a tabooed word in Russian, but offensive. You can translate it also as a vixen.

  2. Aw, Bogi. Well, you weren't as gracious as you could've been sometimes (Worlds '91!) but your gymnastics are so beautiful, and that's your true legacy. Shake Kim's hand and all is forgiven!

  3. One of the best gymnasts ever <3<3<3

  4. Boguinskaia was a TRUE QUEEN of Gymnastics.....who cares about her past moods?....The world just will remember her grace, power and artistry..

  5. I completely agree with you, Gustavo! I do not care about the past and whether she was a bitch, she was a Godness of Gymnastics! The most graceful I have ever seen!

  6. The best gymnast ever, also because she was the tallest. Not 1meter 40 centimeters tall.

  7. She wasn't a bitch at all, in my opinion. In Barcelona 1992 Olympics,I remember Boginskaya being so nurturing towards a devastated Tatiana Gutsu after she fell on beam during the team competition, and again after the last rotation when Gutsu thought she wouldn't be in the all-around final. The image of Boginskaya holding a crying Gutsu, comforting her,is one of the lasting images of those Olympics.

  8. I think Russian has a lot more nuance in its cursing than English. I think there are at least 2 variations for "bitch" - suka and sterva. Usage is key. Suka is more of a low action "bitch", as in "that bitch cut me off". While sterva is almost a compliment, as in "she got employee of the month again?! That bitch." Boginskaya is clearly the kind that beats you over and over and as much as she is apologetic, she is proud of being that bitch who made all the other gymnasts jealous, and she should be, that sterva! ��

  9. The most beautyfull and elegant of all times

  10. I met her once years ago . I always thought she really nice and polite.


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