I did not consider myself Ukrainian: what happened to the famous gymnast who chose Moscow, although they wanted to replace her with a Russian at the Olympics
For the first time, rhythmic gymnasts Yevhenia Tymoshenko and Oksana Skaldina raised two flags of Ukraine at the same Olympic award ceremony at the 1992 Games. At the same time, the bronze medal for Skaldina, a native of Zaporizhzhia, turned out to be a tragedy: she refused to shake hands with Spaniard Carolina Pascual, believing that her silver medal had been taken away from her. After a while, she settled in Russia and claimed that she did not consider herself Ukrainian.
Skaldina, a six-time world champion and 1992 Olympic medalist, was a talented "artist" and performed unique tricks on the mat. At the 1989 World Championships, the judges gave her a 10.0 for her jump rope for the only time in history. However, due to her prickly and volatile personality, she sometimes found it difficult to get along with her mentors and colleagues, and had to change her programs frequently.
Oksana started rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 5 in Zaporizhzhia, but soon the talented girl fell into the hands of Albina and Iryna Deriughna and moved to their famous school in Kyiv.
"I remember when little Oksana first came up to me and, to my surprise, spoke in a low bass voice. Oksana very quickly mastered the technique of the subject and literally "played" with it. She managed to conquer the subject, she did not feel fear at all," Albina Deriuhina recalled.
Skaldina and her teammate Tymoshenko changed gymnastics. They were the first to combine several elements into a combination, and Oksana included tricks in the program that no one can repeat even now. However, she often got bored with her exercises, and Iryna Deriughina had to change them every five to six months, inventing something new.
The native of Zaporizhzhia really shone at the 1989 World Championships in Yugoslavia, winning three gold medals in separate events. The judges initially gave Oksana a 9.8 for the rope exercise, but after a brief discussion of the exercise by the International Federation's technical committee, they changed the score to 10.0. This was the first and only time the referees raised the score at such top competitions.
In 1991, Oksana deservedly became the absolute world champion, and in 1992, after the collapse of the USSR, she won the CIS championship and the first Deryugin Cup. It seemed that she was on her way to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, but they tried to keep Skaldina out of the Games to the last minute in favor of the Russian Kostina, who later died in an accident.
A vote of the heads of the CIS delegations was held, which determined the composition of the unified team for the Olympics. Referring to the athletes' recent results and form, they chose Tymoshenko and Russian gymnast Oksana Kostina. Although, according to rumors, some people simply could not accept that two Ukrainians were going. They couldn't move Yevhenia, so they put pressure on Oksana.
A campaign against Skaldina was launched in the press and on television, with journalists emphasizing that she did not deserve a place on the team. She even tried to run away from the training camp and return to Kyiv. She arrived at the train station, bought a ticket, and then saw Albina Mykolayivna running toward her.
"That's when I had a real hysteria. They brought me back to Novohirsk and did not let me out of my room for two days. And Deriuhina kept saying one thing: "Fight!" I did fight, I realized that I had to endure, but I really wanted to just give up and not prove anything to anyone. Now I am very grateful to these people who did not let me give up," the gymnast recalled.
Although later in an interview, Skaldina claimed that 11 people initially voted for her inclusion in the team and only one or two voted against. Be that as it may, three gymnasts went to Barcelona, and they say that all of them succumbed to the pressure of Albina Deriughna, who insisted on Oksana's candidacy.
As a result, according to the athlete, a second vote was held in Spain two days before the tournament: "This whole situation was very confusing. We didn't know who was going to compete until the last minute! When Albina was going to vote, I asked her: "When it's over, tell me. "When it's over, please tell me right away. I will either go to training or to the sea. Just so I don't have to wait any longer." She came and told me that I had been elected by one vote - 6:5."
Unfortunately, Skaldina's nervousness before the Olympics affected her condition and performance. And according to Oksana, the judges were not on her side.
"I performed very well on the first day. Two events without a single mistake. Albina immediately told me that I should expect scores close to ten. And when I saw the protocols, in which I got 9.6 and 9.7... To say that I was shocked is an understatement. I was second after the first day, but I realized that it was useless to fight. It became clear that no matter how I performed, I would not take first place under any circumstances," the athlete said.
On the final day, the judge in charge of music delayed the start of her program by 40 seconds: "I don't know if it was an accident or deliberate sabotage, but my whole body was numb during this time, because the position was difficult. Of course, I didn't get the roll of the ball to where I needed it to go, but everything else was perfect." It wasn't a global mistake, but the judges gave her a 9.6, pulling Carolina Pascual into second place.
The Ukrainian Tymoshenko won the gold medal, and Oksana did not even congratulate the Spaniard during the award ceremony. After the Olympics, Skaldina, who was offended by the judges and the whole world, first fled to Australia and then married Svatkovsky, a Russian pentathlete and future State Duma deputy from United Russia, whom she met at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
"After the Olympics ended, I developed a fear of judges. The month after Barcelona was very difficult, and if it weren't for the invitation to Australia, I don't know how I would have managed to get through it. To be honest, I just ran away from the coaches who were convincing me to come back. Of course, love also played a role. I didn't want to think about gymnastics at all. Then I took part in a demonstration competition and soon moved to Russia," Oksana said.
Skaldina and her husband settled in Moscow, the champion became a mother, and then in an interview after the war in Donbas began, the Zaporizhzhia native said that she never considered herself a Ukrainian gymnast.
"Before Dasha was born, I considered Kyiv to be my hometown, and then I realized that I was a Muscovite, that Russia was my home country. But I have never considered myself a Ukrainian gymnast. A Soviet one, yes. We were raised in a completely different society. And I didn't consider myself a khokhlushka because I always spoke Russian. And now, when I have lived in Russia for most of my life, I don't think I am either. It's just hard to accept everything that's happening. It's difficult and incomprehensible," babbled Oksana, who was once constantly defended by Albina Deriughna and made her way to the top.
Meanwhile, in Russia, an athlete's marriage fell apart despite having a daughter together. And the athlete-politician found a young businesswoman. Skaldina became a coach by that belt. Her daughter Daria was a member of the Russian rhythmic gymnastics team, but ended her sports career in 2014 due to injuries.
Earlier, OBOZ.UA told how the famous Ukrainian gymnast changed, became a businesswoman in Austria and visited Putin's mistress.