NIKOLAI ANDRIANOV 1952-2011
on floor like Andrianov. With better
mats, good spotting and, of course, the
great Grossfeld, I soon learned the double pike. My life seemed complete.
A year later we heard that Andrianov
was performing a full-twisting double
back on floor. Again, I could not
believe it. I went to bed that night with
the bold dream of doing a full-in on
The first time I saw Andrianov in
person was at the 1976 Montreal
Olympics. He was larger than life. The
big broad chest, incredible strength and
power—and he never missed anything.
Watching him in practice was like
watching a machine. There was no
doubt in my mind he would win everything, and he pretty much did.
The highlight of my
Olympic experience was
when he shook my hand.
It was like a dream.
Nikolai Andrianov died on March 21 in his native Vladimir, Russia. He was 58. Andrianov had been slowly paralyzed by multiple system atrophy (MSA), a degenerative disease similar to ALS, which left him unable to move or speak at the end. All-around champion at the 1976 Olympics and 1978 worlds, Andrianov retired from competition after the 1980 Olympics. His total of 15 Olympic medals across three Olympics (1972,
’76, ’80) was the most for a male Olympian until swimmer
Michael Phelps won his 16th in 2008. A testament to his all-around ability, Andrianov won at least one Olympic medal on
each of the six events.
Andrianov coached the Soviet junior team from 1981-1992,
and was a mentor to Vitaly Scherbo. In 1994 he moved to
Japan, where he coached Naoya Tsukahara, son of former rival
In 2001 Andrianov was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and in ’02 he became head coach of the
Vladimir club where he trained as a youth.
Andrianov is survived by his wife, two-time Olympic gold
medalist Lyubov Burda, and two sons, Vladimir and Sergei.
IF there was one gymnast responsi- ble for ushering in the modern era of men’s gymnastics, it was Nikolai
Andrianov. He combined artistic performance, consistency, tenacious competitiveness and unparalleled levels of
difficulty, which changed gymnastics
The first time I saw Andrianov was
on TV in 1972. I was a junior in high
school and had just learned a double
back. But when Andrianov performed
a double back piked on floor exercise, I
could not believe it. It seemed impossible. How could anyone do two complete
flips with straight legs on floor exercise?
Of course, this was before spring floors,
and only a few gymnasts in the world
were performing a double back tucked.
I went to bed that night dreaming of
doing the double pike.
I soon found myself at Southern
Connecticut State University with
Olympic coach Abie Grossfeld. I told
him it was my goal to do a double pike
It was a great honor to be a member
of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team. After
the team competition I was asleep in
my room when my teammate Bart
Conner woke me up to tell me I had
made floor exercise finals. I thought he
was messing with me, but it was true.
Under the “two-per-country” rule, I
had snuck into the last slot. That night
I dreamt of competing in floor finals
with the great Andrianov.