Khorkina no fan of heavy metal

Thu Jul 21, 2016 9:47pm EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar and Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - It is unlikely that many Olympic gold medalists would complain that the shiny discs of metal they have spent years and years training for are "too heavy" -- but then again Svetlana Khorkina was no ordinary champion.

Depending on which part of the world the statuesque Russian was competing in, she was known as "a diva" or "a snow queen" -- monikers that Khorkina says were only bestowed on "heroes".

Time away from the sport has not mellowed the once Playboy centerfold who gave up gymnastics for good following the 2004 Athens Games.

A gold medalist on the asymmetric bars in 1996 and 2000 Olympics, Khorkina also became the first woman to claim three world all-around titles.

Her triumphs in 1997, 2001 and 2003 stood as the benchmark in women's gymnastics until Simone Biles burst on to the world stage in 2013.

The pint-sized American teenager has blown away all the opposition she has faced over the past three years, becoming the first woman to win three consecutive world all-around titles.

Biles's milestone meant little to Khorkina.

"Twelve years after I finished my sporting career I am the first and only three-time all-around world champion and Biles will always be the second," Khorkina, now a mother, told Reuters in an email interview in the run-up to the Rio Olympics.   Continued...

Russia's Svetlana Khorkina celebrates with her national flag after the women's artistic gymnastics individual all-round final at the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games August 19, 2004. RTXMUHJ