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Nellie Kim
Personal information
Country Represented:  Soviet Union
Date of birth: July 29, 1957 (1957-07-29) (age 52)
Place of birth: Shurab, then Tajik SSR, Soviet Union
Discipline: Women's artistic gymnastics

Nellie Vladimirovna Kim (Russian: Нелли Владимировна Ким; born 29 July 1957) is a retired Soviet gymnast who won three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and two gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics. She was the first woman in Olympic history to earn a perfect 10 score on the vault and the first to earn it on the floor exercise, rivaling Nadia Comaneci, Ludmilla Tourischeva, and other strong competitors of the 1970s. Nellie Kim worked for a long time as a coach, training several national teams, and judged many major international competitions. As President of the Women's Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee, she coordinates the introduction of new rules in women's gymnastics, as provided by the new Code of Points, developed by the FIG in 2004–2005 and in effect since 2006.


Early life

Nellie Kim was born in Shurab, Tajik SSR, the daughter of a Soviet Korean father, Vladimir Kim, who worked in the Chimkent slate factory, and a Tatar mother, Alfiya. At age 9, she entered Chimkent City Children and Youth Sports School 3[1][2] of the Spartak Sports Society. Two other children in the family, her younger brother Alexander and her sister Irina, also entered a gymnastics school and trained for some time. Alexander was harassed by his classmates in the secondary school for his small stature and retired from gymnastics in favor of boxing. Irina, whom Nellie Kim considered more talented than she herself was, retired because of the demands of the frequent training sessions.[1]

Kim's trainers were Vladimir Baidin and his wife, Galina Barkova. Initially, she did not have sufficient flexibility as compared with many of her fellow gymnasts, but she was soon able to compensate with superior technique and the difficulty of her exercises.

One of Kim's earliest successes was her victory in the republican Spartak's competition, held in Chimkent in 1969. Nevertheless, a year later she was said to "have no future" by celebrated gymnast Larissa Latynina.[3] After that verdict, Kim was close to leaving gymnastics but persevered with support from Baidin. At the 1971 Junior USSR Championships, her first national competition, she placed fifth in the all-around. The national junior success, as well as senior national and international debuts followed two years later. Kim won the all-around title and two more gold medals at the All-Union Youth Sports Games, placed 8th in the all-around and 1st on the uneven bars at the USSR Cup and won the prestigious Chunichi Cup in Japan. After a second-place finish at the USSR Cup in August 1974, she was added to the team roster for the World Championships, held in October, where Kim earned the gold medal in the team competition. Afterwards, and until 1980, she successfully competed in many top-level international events.

Nellie Kim's nickname among USSR teammates and team coaches was "Kimanellie," which she earned, when a trainer Vladislav Rastorotsky called her very quickly: "Kim, Nellie, to the phone!"[1]

Olympics and World Championships

Nellie Kim became one of the main medal prospects for the upcoming Olympics and actual leader of the Soviet team after the 1975 Canadian Pre-Olympics Test competition. At the Test she placed second in the all-around to Nadia Comaneci, but won three golds in the event finals (vault, balance beam, floor exercise), while Comaneci won the remaining one on bars.[4] Larissa Latynina, who had already changed her opinion about Kim earlier, described her gymnastics style as sparkling and cheerful. She also cited a comment by Canadian newspapers about Kim's performance: "There are moments, when a natural smile is more worth, than triumph". However, although Nellie Kim also won the 1976 USSR Cup, beating such famous of her compatriots as Olga Korbut and Ludmilla Tourischeva, they were still considered leaders by the media. Even the Coach Council of the Soviet team failed to define her as the leader. That was a mistake recognized by Soviet experts later.[1]

At the 1976 Summer Olympics the rivalry between Nellie Kim and Nadia Comaneci became the focal point of the women's gymnastics competition. Kim's teammates Ludmilla Tourischeva and Olga Korbut, the Olympic champions of Munich, were overcome by the two rising stars in the battle for the gold. Nellie Kim won three gold medals, one in the team competition and two in the event finals: on the vault and floor exercise. Music for her floor routine, choreographed by Valentina Kosolapova, was a fiery Samba, and one of the elements was the double back salto, performed for the first time in Olympic women's events. Kim also won a silver medal in the all-around, receiving the perfect 10 for the Tsukahara vault with the full twist, which was also performed for the first time in Olympic history. She was praised for her feminine beauty and the flamboyant, graceful and intense style.[3] Comaneci won the gold in the all-around, on bars and balance beam. On the vault she performed a Tsukahara.

After the 1976 Summer Olympics Nellie Kim moved to Byelorussian SSR (joining the Armed Forces sports society in Minsk) and represented her new home on the USSR team. Two years later Kim successfully competed at the World Championships. She won gold medals on the vault, floor exercise and in the team competition, and placed second in the all-around to Elena Mukhina, overcoming Nadia Comaneci, who fell from the uneven bars, among others. The greatest success came at the 1979 World Championships, where Nellie Kim became the all-around champion, beating Maxi Gnauck, Melita Ruhn and her teammate Maria Filatova.[5] Her floor exercise routine, choreographed by Galina Savarina, was accompanied by a new piece of music, House of the Rising Sun by Santa Esmeralda, which would also be used one year later at the Olympics.[1]

In 1980 she won the all-around title at the USSR Championships and successfully competed in the Moscow Olympics, her last competitive performance. She tied for the gold medal on the floor with Nadia Comaneci, after scoring 9.95 in that event finals, and won gold in the team competition.[6]

Her gymnastic appearances are remembered for "her strong feminine, temperamental and charismatic appeal".[7]

Later life

After Nellie Kim's competitive career was over she worked as a coach and a judge. She coached the South Korean, Italian and Belarus national teams. In 1984 Kim became the International Brevet Judge and judged many international competitions, including European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. Her judging license was suspended by the FIG for a while only once – after the 1990 World Cup, she was judging again in Barcelona. Since 1983 she has been the President of the Judging Committee in Artistic Gymnastics of the Republic of Belarus.

In 1996 Kim was elected to the Women's Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), and moved to the U.S.A. soon afterwards, where she lives with her daughter Nellie.

At the FIG Congress held on 22 October 2004 in Antalya, Nellie Kim was elected President of the Women's Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee.[8] She helped design the 2006 alteration in the Code of Points, which will end the use of the perfect 10 and introduce uncapped scoring for gymnasts. Some of the main causes for the change were judging scandals at the 2004 Summer Olympics, with Alexei Nemov and other gymnasts involved. FIG officials, including Nellie Kim and Bruno Grandi, believed that one of the possible ways to prevent such scandal in the future and make the clean execution and artistry the main priorities, was a radical change of the old Code.

This move has been controversial among fans and athletes alike. Kim and other FIG officials, pointed out, that this alteration was designed with the help and advice from FIG member federations and many judges, as have all previous codes. They also underlined that this system will be tested on major international events before final adoption.

In her 2005 interview Nellie Kim said that unlike her predecessor in the post of the President of the WAG TC, Jackie K. Fie, she does not receive any salary from the federation of the country, represented by her in the FIG. And therefore she works for the FIG on the basis of pure enthusiasm.[9]

In 1999 she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.[10]

Despite the Cold War, a documentary film about Nellie Kim was filmed in the USSR by the Americans in the mid-70s before the Olympics and was aired in Canada in 1978.

Achievements (non-Olympic)

Year Event AA Team VT UB BB FX
1973 USSR Championships 1st
1974 World Championships 1st 3rd
USSR Cup 2nd
USSR Championships 3rd 2nd 2nd
1975 European Championships 2nd 3rd 3rd 2nd 1st
USSR Cup 2nd
USSR Championships 1st 2nd 1st 1st 1st
1976 USSR Cup 1st
USSR Championships 1st 2nd 1st
1977 European Championships 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd
1978 World Championships 2nd 1st 1st 1st
USSR Championships 2nd
1979 World Championships 1st 2nd 3rd 2nd 2nd
World Cup 2nd 3rd 3rd
USSR Championships 2nd 2nd 1st
1980 USSR Championships 1st


  1. ^ a b c d e (Russian) Kim, Nellie (1985). Schastlivyy pomost (Lucky Gymnastics Platform). Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya.  
  2. ^ "КИМ Нелли Владимировна (гимнастика спортивная)" (in Russian). Belarus Olympic Committee. Retrieved March 21 2008.  
  3. ^ a b "Whatever Happened to Nelli Kim?". Retrieved April 13 2006.  
  4. ^ "1975 Pre-Olympic Test Event". Gymn-Forum. Retrieved July 20 2006.  
  5. ^ Hulbert, Dan (1979-12-09). "Miss Kim Captures Laurels". New York Times. p. S4.  
  6. ^ "Deprived of the all-around title". Boston Globe. 1980-07-26. p. 1.  
  7. ^ "Nellie Kim". International Federation of Gymnastics. Retrieved April 17 2006.  
  8. ^ "Grandi, Stoica Re-Elected". International Gymnast Online. 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2006-03-26.  
  9. ^ (Russian) "I will command the parade!". Sovetskaya Belorussiya. 2005-09-03. Retrieved 2006-03-26.  
  10. ^ "NELLI KIM". International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 12 2007.  

External links

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