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Gymnastics Angel. Elena Mukhina. RIP

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Published on Sep 25, 2011

Montage of Elena Mukhina. Such a sad story :(

In 1979, while training for the 1979 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Mukhina suffered a broken leg, which kept her out of the World Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, a competition in which the Soviet team suffered its first defeat at the hands of their archrivals from Romania, with only Nellie Kim and Stella Zakharova able to medal in apparatus and All Around disciplines. With less than a year until the 1980 Summer Olympics to be held in Moscow, the pressure was on the Soviet team coaches and doctors to get the previous All Around champion Mukhina back on her feet and ready for the games. In an interview with Ogonyok magazine, Mukhina blamed the doctors at TsITO (Central Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics) who were serving the National Team for attempting to rush her back into training too soon, saying she begged them not to remove her cast and discharge her because "they're dragging me from home to workouts" and she knew she was not yet healed. When doctors removed her cast against her wishes and had her try walking on the leg, she said that she knew she was walking "crookedly" and that something was not right. The TsITO doctors X-rayed the leg and discovered that the fracture had not healed properly and would not be able to sustain the pounding of gymnastics in its present condition. Mukhina was rushed into surgery that afternoon, but the damage had already been done to her reputation; one of the National Team coaches, she said in the Ogonyok interview, showed up at her bed the day after surgery and outright stated that she "wasn't conscientious" and that she could still "train in a cast." Once more against her wishes, the doctors removed her cast prematurely, and Mukhina returned to training for the Olympics while beginning a strenuous workout program at CSKA Moscow to lose the weight she had gained while laid up from surgery.

With lingering weakness in her leg and mounting exhaustion from the grueling weight loss workouts, Mukhina had great difficulty coming back up to speed on what was to be the new end element of one of her floor exercise tumbling passes, the Thomas salto, Despite Mukhina's warnings that the element was constantly causing minor injuries and was dangerous enough to potentially cause major injuries, she was pushed to keep the element in her floor routine, and she continued to practice it even knowing it was a dangerous element. On July 3, 1980, two weeks before the Moscow Olympics, Mukhina was practicing the pass containing the Thomas salto when she under-rotated the salto, crash-landed on her chin, and her spine snapped. She was instantly rendered a quadriplegic.

Elena Mukhina died of apparent complications from quadriplegia on December 22, 2006

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