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Liguori: Larisa Latynina,The Forgotten Former All-Time Olympics Record Holder

(credit: AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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By Ann Liguori
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Congrats to Michael Phelps who has now won more Olympic medals than any other athlete in history. But the fact that Larisa Latynina, whose record of 18 total medals has stood since 1964, had to purchase a ticket to watch Phelps break her record is a shame.

It’s one thing that the International Olympic Committee denied her offer to present Phelps his 18th medal. The IOC insisted that honor is reserved for IOC Committee Members. But couldn’t they at least have invited her to watch Phelps’ record-breaking performances as ‘a guest’ so she and her daughter did not have to search for tickets to purchase to attend the swimming events?

According to an article that Mike Lopresti wrote in USA Today, Latynina’s daughter said her mother did not even know she was the top Olympic medal winner until she was in her sixties. And that was only because an American reporter called her about the story.

Latynina won nine gold medals as a gymnast for the Soviet Union, 18 total, spanning three Olympics, the last one being the 1964 Games in Tokyo where she won six medals and she was 29-years-old!

Latynina is 77-years-old now and told Lopresti that she was sad when a poll named Nadia Comaneci the best gymnast of the century. She told Lopresti that ‘Nadia had a very good PR company.’

It’s nice to hear that Latynina received an ovation at the gymnastics venue on Tuesday when her face was shown on the scoreboard late in the competition. But it’s a shame that the IOC didn’t do more through the years to recognize Latynina and her incredible achievements and that her accomplishments seemed basically ignored in her own country.

The IOC seldom, if ever, breaks from their rigid policies for a variety of reasons but exceptions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Latynina should not have had to pay for her own tickets to see her long-standing record broken! The IOC could have honored her by inviting her as their guest.

Do you think the International Olympic Committee should have honored Latynina? Voice your opinion in the comments section below…