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Larisa Semyonovna Latynina

Latynina, Larysa or Larisa Semyonovna, 1934–, Soviet-Ukrainian gymnast, the dominant female gymnast of her era, b. Kherson. She was the first athlete to win nine Olympic gold medals and 18 total medals and is the only athlete to have won 14 individual medals. She switched from ballet to gymnastics in her teens and attended the Kiev State Institute of Physical Culture. Making her competitive debut in 1954, she competed in three consecutive Olympic Games (1956, 1960, 1964) as well as the European (1957, 1961, 1965) and World (1958, 1962) championships, winning a total of 29 medals. Latynina was particularly known for her grace, style, flawless technique, and fluid movement, especially in the floor exercise. She retired in 1966, coached the Soviet gymnastic team (1967–77), and helped plan the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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