One of the gymnastics GOATs is Russian Svetlana Khorkina, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champ. Back then, Khorkina was known for her pioneering skills, unusual height (she's 5-foot, 5-inches, nearly a foot taller than Simone Biles), and propensity to say whatever was on her mind. Now 37, the former champion has stayed active in, and opinionated about, the world of gymnastics.
Khorkina retired after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where she was edged out of the top spot by American gymnast Carly Patterson. Khorkina was favored to win gold after claiming the world championship in 2003, and she actually beat Patterson on both bars and vault in the individual all-around competition, but eventually lost to the American by a thin margin of just .166 points. Khorkina didn't take the loss lightly, blaming the judges for fusing gymnastics and politics.
"Everything was decided in advance," Khorkina claimed to Reuters just after the individual finals in 2004. "I had no illusions about this when the judges gave me 9.462 for the vault after conferring with one another at length. I practically did everything right, still they just set me up and fleeced me." When asked why she received low scores, Khorkina stated, "You better ask them. I think it's because I'm from Russia, not from America!"
Despite her bitter exit from competition, Khorkina remained an integral part of Russian gymnastics. She began her tenure as the vice president of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation in 2005, a position which she held ever since. She also served in the Russian State Duma, the country's parliament, between 2007 and 2011, and was the deputy chair of the Committee of Youth.
It doesn't seem that Khorkina will attend the Rio Olympics, but she certainly has a lot of opinions on how the sport has evolved since her time in competition. "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 told Reuters in an email interview. "A number of gymnastics moves are named after me, which even now not everyone is able to master. These are unique moves and I opened the way to gymnastics in the 21st century."
Khorkina has yet to achieve the goal she set for herself after her last Olympics and work for the International Federation of Gymnastics, but if it's still what she wants, she's got plenty of time. Her legacy in the sport is already cemented, with eight moves officially named after her in the Code of Points, but she wants to have an even more lasting impact on the sport as well.
"I'd like to work for the International Gymnastics Federation," she told Reuters back in 2004. "These competitions have shown the sport needs a lot of changes. It should be judged primarily on grace, elegance and beauty rather than simply on mechanic tumbling."
Twelve years after her competition career ended, Khorkina's passion and drive for gymnastics has yet to fade. She likely has a long career in the sport still ahead of her, and should only become more and more instrumental to changing the game as she gets more experience on the administrative side. Expect to see her back at the Olympics soon, but this time judging or facilitating the athletes, instead of on the floor herself.