Vladimir Novikov…Vladimir Gogoladze…Dmitry Bilozerchev…Valeri Liukin…Vladimir Artemov…Sergei Kharkov.

Some of the greatest names in men’s gymnastics history – all on the same team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.  You’ve heard of most – if not all – of them, but have you ever WATCHED them?

Men’s Soviet Union Team Floor 1988 Olympics

Why is it that I enjoy watching Novikov’s transition sequence with the Manna and the back extension half turn more than many of today’s long tumbling combinations?  Why do the full-twisting dive rolls and Arabian dive rolls fascinate me more than all of the “Thomases” we see today?  Don’t get me wrong – I love the big skills in there too – Gogoladze’s triple back was the first ever done in Olympic competition, Kharkov’s front handspring sequence to double front was super cool, and Novikov’s double layout through to double back is something I have never seen since.  But it’s the style that I love to watch most…the way they blend their skills with a touch of “flair” – literally – and the way they pay attention to their head positions, their hand positions, their split positions, and their toepoint.

Also note how short these routines are compared to today’s – four tumbling passes at the most, and at least one of them was quite simple in every one of those routines.  Somehow they still managed to get their point across.