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ENGLISH VERSION20 марта 2008 22:20

Svetlana Khorkina: "Yulia Bordovskikh introduced me to my admirer"

KP offers readers fragments from the book written by former Olympic champion and State Duma deputy, Svetlana Khorkina.

Khorkina is no longer just a name; it's a symbol. We've known her for a long time. KP has twice awarded Khorkina with the "Russia Sports Glory" honors. She has acted in classical theater, danced on the circus stage, wrote an album of love songs and hosted a TV program.

Khorkina's book "Somersaults on High Heels," published by Olma-Press, will hit the stores and an official presentation ceremony will be held soon. Like many talented people, Svetlana has faced a great deal of problems in her life. But it's her life, her fate, and her truth.

Once we asked Svetlana what she really wants. Her answer was simple: "A nice family and lots of kids!"

We hope that all of Svetlana's wishes come true.

Below are several segments from her book for our readers' enjoyment.

The Americans stamped their feet loudly as I walked onto the platform.

From the very first hours of the Olympics (ed. Olympics in Atlanta in 1996), a heated battle ensued in the team events. Our gymnasts – including myself – had performed well. But the American girls came out as the Olympic champions. Inspired by viewer support and U.S. President Bill Clinton in the stands, together with blatantly unfair assistance from the judges, who guaranteed them a street void of traffic lights and crosswalks, they had accomplished far more than what seemed objectively possible. The extreme tension in the team events resulted in an unavoidable slump of interest in the individual contests. In the all-round competition, I fell from my favorite apparatus (bars) while performing the maneuver that I had successfully taken on the day before in Russia...

Boris Vasilevich and I put everything on the line by adding the new maneuver to my program the day before the start. Yep, we took a huge risk, as I had had the chance to win outright and come away with first place. At the same time, we had the chance to try a new maneuver during the final competition on the bars – to strike hard for a sure win. The first-place medals did indeed all go to representatives of other countries. But the following day, I brilliantly executed my most difficult combination with the help of the treacherous maneuver and conquered my opponents. And I became an Olympic champion – despite the American viewers screaming and stamping their feet so hard, as they had done all the days before, that the platform was shaking during my performance. This time they didn't succeed in interfering and making the Americans come out on top.

The victory in Atlanta was celebrated all-out

The Olympic village in Atlanta actually did remind me of a huge village – although it wasn't one-story. And I liked it more than the other "villages" where I later lived in Sydney and Athens.

Delegations from various countries were accommodated in multicolored zones. Russians lived in blue, Ukrainians in yellow, and so on and so forth.

The Ukrainians were our neighbors. After completing our Olympic program, we organized a huge party. The tension from the competition was so great and our joy so wild that we had to relax completely to then start our life anew.

We had climbed towards this peak for so many years and denied ourselves a great deal of pleasures. Now, having reached our goal, we could lay back and rest, and utterly and entirely break our regime – even drink alcohol.

Everything was put to use: horilka, vodka, champagne, wine, whiskey – whatever was in stock. And the mix was brutal. We celebrated with a Russian swing – without a concern in the world.

Most importantly, our team had come away with Olympic gold medals. Our boys were now the golden team – Nemov had earned a gold, silver and bronze; the girls a silver for a team event;and I had a gold for the bars. Later, we were joined by champions from other sports.

Everyone knew that there was a big party on the Russian street. The celebration even continued on the plane, when we flew over 10 hours to Moscow. I actually think our plane wasn't flying horizontally, but flopping up and down and side to side. Even the captain asked us several times during the flight: "Guys, of course I understand a victory's a victory, but if you could spread out through the entire plane and not gather in one place! Our tail is flopping up and down…"

For me, the party became a sort of strength test. Generally speaking, I don't even drink hard liquor. We didn't know much about wine then, and were only rarely able to treat ourselves to champagne on birthdays even then only a small drop. Usually, I could drink a little beer before our day of rest (usually on Saturday after the banya).

By the way, I still hate vodka. And back then, I tried a lot of hard drinks for the first time. And this was my first Olympic championship! I just didn't know what I was doing while riding all those emotions.

Somewhere around the second half of the flight I decided to take a walk to the toilet, and just couldn't get there – I fell over. Almost at every seat they poured me a drink and raised a toast to my victory!

My friend gave me an insane gift – a cellphone

A funny story that happened to me in March 1997 in Lausanne, where I arrived as part of a delegation of the National Olympics Committee, brought a mysterious love affair into my life that would be with me for years to come. But everything began rather prosaic…

Somehow, on a free night, after a usual performance, my girlfriend Yulia Bordovskikh and I decided to have dinner at a renowned Lausanne restaurant.

We had to walk along the shore of a beautiful lake, and I was dressed too lightly for the evening stroll. But it didn't frighten me much. If we walk quickly, I thought, I won't freeze. And suddenly, Yulia saw her friend and asked:

“You wouldn't mind if I invite that handsome young man to accompany us?”

“No, with pleasure,”I laughed. “A man would only better our company.”

Kirill turned out to be not only a pleasant companion, but a gallant gentleman. As soon as we were at the lake, he threw his light cashmere coat onto my cold shoulders.

At the restaurant, we ordered warm mulled wine and started talking energetically about the upcoming presentation. After dinner, the three of us, reddened, stuffed and complacent, returned to the hotel…

Unfortunately, we had to part with my new acquaintance in Lausanne. He flew back to Saint Petersburg, where he lived and worked at the time, and I returned to my hearth and home at Round Lake.

While in Lausanne, Kirill had given me an insane gift for that time – a cellphone. That way I could call him any minute if I needed help or just moral support. Such sensitive courting I hadn't seen at that point in my life.

We called each other often. He came to Moscow whenever he could to support me at Russia's championships and cups, and was among our supporters at the championships in Europe in Petersburg and the insidious Sydney. He was always near during the most difficult and happiest moments of my athletic career.

Went into labor too early

Earlier, July 23 had been scheduled as the date of my baby's birth, meaning I had about 1.5 weeks at my disposal. I didn't change anything in my usual schedule: swam, walked, enjoyed nature, went shopping, looked for things for the baby…

My last visit to the doctor before I was scheduled to go into labor was on July 21.

Oleg examined me and said, somehow especially calmly:

“Now you're going to get up slowly, taking your time, go home, get your things, and come to the hospital around 7. Today we're going to give birth.”

“What do you mean, give birth?” I whispered frightenedly. My mouth was dry. “They said the 23rd! And I really wanted to look at him today on the monitor… No, let him lie there for a bit!”

“Silly!” Oleg laughed. “Today you'll already be holding him on your chest.”

I went home, having completely lost my mind after hearing the news. I called my Mom and told her that I was having an unplanned delivery. She calmed me down saying: “Don't worry, everything will be fine. Call me as soon as you give birth.”

At 7 in the evening I was already sitting in the foyer at the clinic, filling out some papers with Yulia's help – among them a consent form for a Cesarean section. Later, they took me to my room. I almost lost consciousness while walking along the corridor – someone was already screaming, giving birth… I was drenched in cold sweat, stupefied. Seeing that I was scared, Yulia explained that everything would be different with me. I was having a Cesarean section. They give you a shot of anesthetic, and in several minutes they show you the baby…

Then I made it into the operating room on my own two legs. I already wasn't afraid. I thought that right then I would finally see my boy! And then they told me that someone from among my loved ones could be near me during the operation – but only one. And I asked Yulia to stay with me, not suspecting that the girl is scared to death of the sight of blood. But sadist that I am, I had even given her a camera to record the doctors' every movement and my angel's birth.

They gave me a shot in the spine and placed me on the table. And although I saw everything around me, it was as if my body didn't exist below the waist. The unknown feeling frightened me a bit. But my attention was distracted by the later chain of events. I didn't feel anything. I only saw Yulia's crazy eyes, who like a real machine gunner gripped the trigger of the camera. Then I lifted my eyes and saw a mirror reflecting the entire course of the operation. I closed my eyes tightly from the unexpected vision and felt that I was being shaken, and the next moment rung a child's scream. And they put my little boy on my chest. And then they told Yulia: “Okay, Dad, go ahead and cut the umbilical cord!” My dear Yulia was shaking from surprise: “It's better if you do that yourselves! What kind of Dad am I!” That's how my girlfriend practically gave birth together with me. And naturally, she was the one to become Svyatik's godmother.

The article was prepared by Vladimir Kozin and Maxim Chijikov.