NORMAN — Four international gymnastics legends will be formally inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame as more than 400 fans, friends, members and a special honoree gather on May 18 at the Petroleum Club in Oklahoma City.
Albert Azaryan, a four time Olympic medalist — three gold — in 1956 and 1960, and winner of five World Championship medals, comes from Armenia to be honored.
Lyubov Burda, 1968 and 1972 Olympic gold medalist and 1970 Team World Champion from Russia competed for the USSR.
Gina Gogean, combined five time Olympic medalist at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and winner of 15 World Championship medals for Romania.
Yuri Korolev, the most decorated non-Olympic gymnast, including 13 medals — nine gold — across four World Championships (1981, ‘83, ‘85 and ‘87) from Russia.
“We’re thrilled to honor these four gymnastics icons who have won a total of 11 Olympic and 35 World Championship medals together,” said Bart Conner, IGHOF board chair. “Both Burda (2001) and Korolev (2010) were inducted previously but haven’t been able to attend until this year.”
Another champion gymnast will attend the induction ceremony to receive the first Nadia Comaneci Sportsmanship Award. Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber will be honored as a currently competitive or recently retired gymnast from around the world who has demonstrated great sportsmanship or fair play.
“I’m happy to present the award to Jordyn Wieber,” said Comaneci, 1993 IGHOF inductee. “Jordyn was the reigning World All-Around Champion but failed to qualify for the (Olympic all-around) finals in London, and yet she showed great sportsmanship by overcoming her personal disappointment to help lead the U.S. women to the gold medal.”
Wieber, who had only lost one competition in the three years before becoming the 2011 World All-Around Champion, was the most experienced American on the “Fierce Five.” The team came to be known by that nickname when they won the team gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
In Olympic qualifying last year, Wieber was fourth in the world, only to watch fellow Americans Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman have breakthrough performances to place ahead of her. She was displaced from competing in the All Around final as only two athletes per country advance to the finals. Douglas went on to become the first African-American to win the all-around Olympic gold.
Now living in Norman with her Olympic gold medalist husband Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci was the first woman to post an Olympic perfect 10 score in winning three gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Summer Games. She also won two gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games, competing for her native Romania.
During the last 16 years, 79 of gymnastic’s greatest stars and contributors, representing 20 countries, have been formally inducted including Olga Korbut, Mary Lou Retton, Vera Caslavska, Nikolai Andrianov, Sawao Kato, Vitaly Scherbo, Shannon Miller and Bart Conner.
Founded in 1987, in Oceanside, Calif., the Hall of Fame relocated in 1996 to Oklahoma City, where it has developed a solid foundation of public and private support.
“People are often surprised to know that this is the only International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in existence, and it is endorsed by the International Gymnastics Federation based in Switzerland,” Conner said.
The Hall continues to preserve, promote and share the achievements of the sport’s greatest legends, with its exhibit at the Science Museum Oklahoma in the Adventure District in Oklahoma City. Children can try out the tyke-size gymnastics equipment, view portraits of all the inductees, and see the sculptures, paintings and memorabilia of the sport. Visitors will soon be able to interact with a kiosk to learn more about the Hall’s members.
“Our goal is to preserve the legacies of these international gymnastics legends, and U.S. e their stories of achievement to inspire future generations,” Conner said.
For more about the Hall of Fame, visit www.IGHOF.com and for tickets to the IGHOF Induction Ceremony, call Lynn Landis at 364-5344.