Svetlana Khorkina of Russia doesn't fit the image of a
world-class female gymnast. At 5'5" she's practically a
skyscraper. At 21 she's just about ready for Geritol. Her
topless layout in the November 1997 Russian edition of Playboy?
Well, few gymnasts are as unabashed in their quest for attention
as the coquettish Khorkina, who enters the Sydney Games as the
By age six, Khorkina was displaying career-threatening signs of
becoming a normal-heighted young woman. You'll never be able to
swing on the uneven bars with all that length, her coach, Boris
Pilkin, told her. Try rhythmic gymnastics. Khorkina balked. Since
1994 she has entered nine finals on the uneven bars at the
Olympics, worlds and European championships and won them all.
Innovation is Khorkina's trademark. She has moves named for her
on every apparatus, including two on bars. After winning four
gold medals at the European championships in Paris in May,
Khorkina went to the Russian nationals in Moscow and unveiled two
vaults and a dizzying combination on the bars.
The woman with the cell phone and the jazzy Renault hopes to
become the oldest women's Olympic all-around champ since
Czechoslovakia's Vera Caslavska in 1968. She also wants to be a
star, as was clear from her Playboy pictorial, which caught her
parents and teammates by surprise. Her mother, Lyubov, liked the
artistry of the pictures; her father, Vassily, was shocked.
Khorkina is coy about boyfriends but seems to enjoy interviews
that veer from her sport to her personal life. "I love it," she
says of the attention. "I want people to remember me."