Natalia Kuchinskaya
Kuchinskaya at the 1968 Olympic Games

Full name

Natalia Alexandrovna Kuchinskaya

Country represented

Flag of the Soviet Union USSR


March 8 1949 (1949-03-08) (age 68)
St. Petersburg, Russian SFSR, USSR


Vladimir Reyson; Larisa Latynina

Current status


Natalia Alexandrovna Kuchinskaya (Russian: Наталья Александровна Кучинская; alternative transliteration Natal'ja Alieksandrovna Kutchinskaja), also known as Natasha Kuchinskaya (Russian: Наташа Кучинская) (born March 8, 1949) is a retired Soviet Olympic gymnast.

Kuchinskaya was born on March 8, 1949 in St. Petersburg and was selected for a gymnastics class while still in kindergarten. She originally aspired to become a ballet dancer, but was convinced to study gymnastics by her parents, who were both involved with the sport.She trained with Vladimir Reyson and later national team coach Larisa Latynina, who was said to consider Kuchinskaya one of her favorite gymnasts.

By 1965, at age sixteen, Kuchinskaya was the USSR national champion. At the 1966 World Championships, after winning her second Nationals title, the USSR Cup and the World Trials, she established herself as one of the stars of the Soviet team, winning gold medals in three of the four event finals (balance beam, uneven bars and floor exercise), a bronze on vault, and silvers in the all-around and team events. Kuchinskaya continued her winning streak in 1967, when she won the pre-Olympic test event in Mexico City and swept the USSR Nationals, walking away with the all-around title and every single event final gold medal.

At the 1968 Olympics, Kuchinskaya was arguably the most popular member of the Soviet team. She placed third in the all-around, behind Věra Čáslavská and her teammate Zinaida Voronina, she also shared in the team gold medal and won the balance beam title and a bronze on the floor exercise. She was dubbed "The Bride of Mexico" and "the Sweetheart of Mexico" by the admiring press and was serenaded with a folk song, "Natalie," during her stay in Mexico City.

The Olympics was Kuchinskaya's final competition. At the time, her sudden departure from gymnastics was attributed to a thyroid illness; in an interview in the late 90s Kuchinskaya also revealed that she had lost her motivation for the sport.

Following her retirement, Kuchinskaya coached in the USSR, Japan and the United States. She has been married since 1980 to optician Alexander Kotliar and currently lives and coaches in the USA, running her own gymnastics club in Illinois. In 1999 she appeared on the "Soviet Sport War" episode of the PBS documentary The Red Files discussing her experiences in gymnastics. In 2006 she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Medal Count

Year Event TF AA VT UB BB FX
1965USSR Championships 3rd1st
1966 USSR Championships2nd1st
USSR Cup1st2nd1st1st
USSR World Trials1st
Dortmund World Championships 2nd 2nd 3rd 1st 1st 1st
1967 USSR Championships 3rd 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
Pre-Olympic Test Event1st
1968Mexico City Olympic Games1st3rd1st3rd
USSR Championships2nd1st

Olympic Balance Beam Champions
Nina BocharovaAgnes KeletiEva BosákováVěra ČáslavskáNatalia KuchinskayaOlga KorbutNadia ComăneciEcaterina Szabo | Simona PăucăDaniela SilivaşTatiana LysenkoShannon MillerLiu XuanCătălina PonorShawn JohnsonDeng LinlinSanne Wevers

World Uneven Bars Champions
Vlasta Děkanová | Matylda Pálfyová • Anna Petersen | Gertchen Kolar • Agnes KeletiLarisa Latynina • Irina Pervushina • Natalia KuchinskayaKarin JanzAnnelore ZinkeMarcia FrederickMa YanhongMaxi GnauckGabriele FaehnrichDörte Thümmler | Daniela SilivaşDaniela Silivaş | Fan Di • Kim Gwang-SukLavinia MiloşoviciShannon MillerLuo LiSvetlana KhorkinaSvetlana Khorkina | Elena PiskunSvetlana KhorkinaCourtney KupetsChellsie Memmel | Hollie ViseNastia LiukinBeth TweddleKsenia SemenovaHe KexinBeth TweddleViktoria KomovaHuang HuidanYao JinnanFan Yilin | Viktoria Komova | Madison Kocian | Daria Spiridonova

World Balance Beam Champions
Vlasta DěkanováHelena RakoczyKeiko TanakaLarisa LatyninaEva BosákováNatalia KuchinskayaErika ZucholdNellie KimLudmilla TourischevaNadia ComăneciVera CernaMaxi GnauckOlga MostepanovaDaniela SilivaşAurelia DobreDaniela SilivaşSvetlana BoginskayaKim ZmeskalLavinia MiloşoviciShannon MillerMo HuilanDina KochetkovaGina GogeanLing JieAndreea RăducanAshley PostellFan YeNastia LiukinIryna KrasnianskaNastia LiukinDeng LinlinAna PorgrasSui LuAliya MustafinaSimone Biles

World Floor Exercise Champions
Matylda Pálfyová • Helena RakoczyTamara ManinaEva BosákováLarisa LatyninaNatalia KuchinskayaLudmilla TourischevaNellie Kim | Elena MukhinaEmilia EberleNatalia IlienkoEcaterina SzaboOksana OmelianchikDaniela Silivaş | Elena ShushunovaDaniela Silivaş | Svetlana BoginskayaCristina BontaşKim ZmeskalShannon MillerDina KochetkovaGina GogeanGina Gogean | Kui YuanyuanGina GogeanAndreea RăducanElena GómezDaiane Dos SantosAlicia SacramoneCheng FeiShawn JohnsonBeth TweddleLauren MitchellKsenia AfanasyevaSimone Biles

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