Although 1990s Russian gymnast Yekaterina Vandysheva’s competitive career was as short as it was brilliant, she continues to devote her life to the sport that she told IG has molded her character.
Vandysheva’s beautiful and daring performances earned her berths on the Russian team at the 1993 European Cup and 1993 World Championships, as well as a lasting legacy. Younger fans of the sport are discovering her on social media, including her stunning routines on balance beam and floor exercise.
“My experience in gymnastics helps me to know that, whatever happens, it is necessary to go further and forward,” said Vandysheva (now Vandysheva-Munirova), who is president of the maritime regional gymnastics federation based in her native Vladivostok. “Overcome all obstacles and go to the intended goal. In gymnastics, there are many approaches to the same exercise. Falls, luck and failures happen. And so the shaping of character remains from childhood. Whatever happens, you need to do everything to the end.”
Vandysheva credits her coach for creating memories which she considers “very beautiful.” Vandysheva said her favorite moments include making the Russian junior team, making the Russian senior team and placing third on uneven bars at the 1993 European Cup in Brussels.
“The style and beauty were created by my coach, Alexandra Chermeneva, and choreographer Yelena Kapitonova,” she said of her exquisite presentation.
Yekaterina with husband Ratmir Munirov and their daughter, Margarita.
Vandysheva also praises Chermeneva for helping her heal quickly from a serious injury prior to the European Cup, where in addition to her bronze on uneven bars she finished sixth all-around, sixth on vault and sixth on floor exercise.
“Before the trial competitions and the European Cup, I had a fracture of the radial and ulnar bone, with a displacement, in my right arm,” she said. “I had an operation, and they put in two plates. But thanks to my coach, my recovery was very quick. She developed a rehabilitation program for me, with massages, special exercises, et cetera, so we managed to prepare for the European Cup.” Doctors finally removed the plates from Vandysheva’s arm in 1995.
Injury kept Vandysheva out of competition at the 1993 Worlds in Birmingham, where, training on uneven bars one day before the start of competition, she broke her right arm during a transition from the upper to the lower bar.
“In gymnastics, injuries happen often, so there was further work on restoring my physical form,” she said. “Unfortunately in my career, injuries happened, and that was very hard for me.”
Vandysheva, who decided to retire in 1995, began coaching in 2001. She studied physical education at Far Eastern State University in her hometown, and since graduating she has been teaching gymnastics and aerobics at the university. In 2009 Vandysheva became president of her regional gymnastics federation. She and her husband, Ratmir Munirov, are the parents of 2-year-old daughter Margarita.
Although Vandysheva’s region lies at the extreme eastern edge of the country, she hopes it can become a gymnastics hub.
“The big wish for our city is that they build a good sports hall for gymnastics training,” she said. “Although Vladivostok is far from the center of Russia, we go to competitions, and we communicate with coaches and athletes. We try to be in the middle of things. I do not know how soon we will be a famous center of gymnastics in Russia, but I hope that we will. We will strive for this.”
Gymnastics still fills Vandysheva’s life, and she encourages today’s gymnasts to stay focused and optimistic through the character-building challenges that the sport brings.
“There are problems in everyday life,” she told IG. “Therefore, I wish for all gymnasts to persevere, and go to the end toward their cherished dream, whatever happens.”