Thirteen years too late, but the Ukrainian team finally has a world team medal! Earlier this year, the gymnasts were handed the team bronze medal from the 1999 World Championships after China was disqualified for falsifying the age of Dong Fangxiao. This is hardly the first case of altering a gymnast’s birth year, but it became high-profile when Dong appeared at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with credentials stating her 1986 birthdate, despite being listed as 16 years old at the 1999 Worlds.
China’s demise was Ukraine’s bounty, as they picked up the well-deserved bronze at a ceremony in Kiev. Ukraine had only lost the bronze medal to China by 0.085, and China had experienced hometown advantage by hosting the meet in Tianjin. A belated congratulations to Viktoria Karpenko, Olga Roschupkina, Inga Shkarupa, Olga Teslenko, Tatiana Yarosh, Natalia Gorodny and alternate Galina Tyryk. This team exhibited such style, and this medal comes at a time when the Ukrainian program is but a shadow of its former self. I hope this medal will serve as motivation for the current crop of gymnasts who, apart from Maria Livchikova, struggle to show the same flair they once had.
1999 World Championships Bronze Medalists
Viktoria Karpenko, All Around, Vault 2
Olga Roschupkina, All Around, Beam
Inga Shkarupa, Team Finals, Floor
Olga Teslenko, 1996 Olympic Games, Apparatus Finals, Beam
Tatiana Yarosh, 2000 Olympic Games, Team Finals, Floor
Natalia Gorodny, Team Finals, Beam
Galina Tyryk, 1999 Massilia Cup, Uneven Bars
Let’s hope these gymnasts enjoy the success and rewards that come with a World medal, but the reality is that their federation most likely missed out on funding that could have enriched the program and created more future champions. Moreover, the gymnasts themselves might have missed out on monetary prizes or rewards such as apartments and cars. Cheating hurts everyone.