By Dmitry Baranovsky
Svetlana Boginskaya’s nickname of Goddess is derived from her family name (Bog is translated as God in English). The lady received it long ago, and it’s truly a part of her now. Svetlana was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2005, but it seems no one would have been surprised if the name ‘Goddess’ had been written, instead of her birth name. Everyone who was lucky enough to witness this three times Olympic and five times World Champion can be envied. Many years after her success the sportswoman is still well aware of her significance, and speaks so elegantly that nobody could accuse her of arrogance.
“I always wished to be the best. When I joined a gymnastics sports club, I immediately announced that I planned to become Olympic Champion. I threw away my first bronze medal. My mother spent a lot of effort convincing me to take it back and realise that it’s impossible to win all the time,” Svetlana says.
While attentively watching her three Olympic performances (representing the USSR, CIS and Belarus), Svetlana commented wryly on every little mistake. Recollecting the Ms. Boginskaya of the 1980s, Olympic champion Antonina Koshel speaks of an insistent girl, with complex character. Svetlana is even more straightforward. “I was a nasty piece of work!” she says. At the same time, the sports star apologises to her coaches, “In America, I would have been thrown out of the gym for such tricks.” However, this combination of Svetlana’s maximalism and arrogance made her a true goddess. Moreover, it helped the sportswoman to twice return to the professional sport after ‘the maturation period’. “I wanted to have more free time to go to discos back then…” she recollects.
Svetlana’s present life in America, where she runs a business, is well planned and ‘scheduled’. Some might view her failure to come to Minsk (where her parents and brother live) for fifteen years as hardness, but Ms. Boginskaya initially blames her fear of air flights, which appeared after her daughter was born, for such a situation, but later agrees that a schedule dictates rules, which are vital for those wishing to reach the top. “American gymnastics has little sport but much money. This is the reality. Everyone must pay and everyone must earn money. A month of gym training, with the most advanced sporting equipment, costs around $1,000. However, these are the rules. When I was invited to the USA in 1993 to be trained by Nadia Comăneci, I also had to work to pay the $500-700. This is a business for coaches and, due to the necessity to think mostly about making money, a majority of American sportswomen are ‘one-timers’. After their Olympic performances, they ‘plunge’ into more diverse tournaments and advertising campaigns. However, new sportswomen come to replace them, and the sport continues its efficient development,” Svetlana tells us.
It was a true challenge for many Soviet period sportspeople to accept the American system, but Ms. Boginskaya did this as easily as she had earlier won her first Olympic medal. Her desire to be the best did not vanish and America offered her great possibilities for her dream to come true. Svetlana’s summer sports camps are making good profit now. Moreover, she also finds time to consult the American team and thinks of ways to help Belarusian gymnastics progress.
“My family is extremely important for me,” Svetlana says. “In my sporting days, I had my head in the clouds and was truly arrogant, which is natural for many sportsmen. However, I’m different now. I even refused to sign a full time contract with the American team, as I wish to spend as much time with my family as possible. Meanwhile, my present visit to Minsk is not without reason. Of course, nostalgia, shopping and seeing relatives are all important. However, I also plan to discuss the possibility of my helping Belarusian gymnastics. If I succeed in finding a sponsor, I’ll arrange a free camp for sportswomen near New York — they’ll only need to pay for their flight. Probably, the Belarusian team will manage to participate in an annual tournament (named after me). Some other ideas are also possible, but right now, I know little of the present Belarusian gymnastics situation.”