Members of the Ukrainian national team will compete in Saturday's Zakharova Cup in Kiev, as event organizer Stella Zakharova says she and the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation have moved past their years-long conflict.
Zakharova, a member of the gold medal-winning Soviet teams at the 1980 Olympics and 1981 Worlds, said she and Igor Korobchinsky are now working together to help the struggling Ukrainian program.
"I don't want any more negativity," she said during a press conference. "I now have a good relationship with the gymnastics federation, headed by titled athlete Igor Korobchinsky, who has realized that it's necessary to work on results."
Maria Livchikova (Ukraine)
Zakharova's feud with Korobchinsky began after the 2004 Olympics, when she defeated him by one vote in the election for president of the federation. Korobchinsky insisted the election was rigged and sued, and a court agreed.
More friction arose over Zakharova's annual competition, which received state funds that the cash-strapped federation felt should go toward its own events. Their feud escalated into an ugly war of words in the media. In 2008, the federation released a letter signed by its gymnasts pleading with Zakharova to stop causing problems for the team.
But the two parties were able to put their differences behind them, she said.
"We've worked together very successfully this year," Zakharova said. "Hopefully in the future a good relationship will merge, because if the federation creates conflict, we cannot achieve good results."
For the past few editions, Ukraine's top gymnasts skipped the Zakharova Cup because of the feud. But promising Ukrainian Maria Livchikova is on this year's roster, as is 2008 Olympic uneven bars finalist Anastasia Koval.
This year's competition features male and female gymnasts from 11 countries - Belarus, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, U.S. and Uzbekistan. The state allocated US$375,000 in funding, which went toward new equipment from Gymnova.
"We are investing money in Ukraine's Olympic future," she said. "We bought beautiful equipment for the event. During the year before the Olympics our national team will train on equipment that will be at the Games."
Triple Junior European champion Anastasia Grishina (Russia) headlines the women's field this year, while U.S. world team members Steven Legendre and Jake Dalton stand out among the men.
Although she is now working with the federation, Zakharova said she has not reconciled with famed rhythmic coach Irina Deryugina, a Korobchinsky ally.
"I do not talk to Deryugina and do not consider it worthwhile to communicate with a scandalous person," Zakharova said. "I'm an Olympic champion, and she was a world champion, therefore, I have higher status (although I was also a world champion). I've grown tired of these scandals. I do not want to discuss it. God is her judge."
External Link: Stella Zakharova Cup