The Life and Times of Albina Deriugina



At the age of 80 she may be a little more hesitant on her feet, but Albina Deriugina’s eyes burn with the same fire and intensity as they have always done, and her face betrays a seemingly ageless youthful spirit. The legendary Ukrainian choreographer continues to command the respect of every female gymnast who seeks to make their way in the often tortuous and ever mysterious world of rhythmic gymnastics today.


The FIG met with her during the 2013 World Championships in Kiev, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the problems that are currently afflicting Ukraine.



Mrs. Deriugina, you have dedicated your life to Rhythmic Gymnastics. Can you tell us how you got involved in the sport?


Albina Deriugina: I was first acquainted with Rhythmic Gymnastics at the secondary school that I attended in Dnipropetrovsk after World War II. My first coach was Anna Markovna Dubrova, a truly wonderful woman. Of course, Rhythmic Gymnastics was totally different at that time from what we know today and our school programme also included Artistic Gymnastics, Acrobatics, even Skiing. My choreographic training became very important then. Later at the Dnipropetrovsk State Institute of Physical Culture and Sports I continued with Rhythmic Gymnastics and Basketball.


At that time we were not focused on one sport, but we were doing various kinds of sports. I needed surgery after my knee collapsed on a bad landing when I was doing high jump. And after a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition of all regions of the Soviet Union in 1949 my injury got worse and I was operated by a leading surgeon in Moscow. Then I got married and stayed in Kiev to work. After a year, I was transferred to the city council of Spartak (a so-called sports society of the former Soviet Union in Moscow), where I worked hard for more than 20 years. The competitions in Rhythmic Gymnastics were becoming more andmore popular and the generations of young gymnasts were growing. Zoya Rozinko was my first student who made the USSR national team, with which I worked for 20 years.


What was your approach to Rhythmic Gymnastics during the years you worked for the USSR national team?


Albina Deriugina: There were wonderful coaches, people who contributed a lot. And all of us, who were starting the still young sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics, took it seriously. Almost all of the gymnasts were just starting and the coaches then did not have a specific education. They were first of all clever choreographers. Rhythmic Gymnastics had its origins in choreography.


I always felt that choreography is something very natural to me and I was very fond of it. Once my Gymnastics teacher Valentina Savelievna told me: “You can only be a coach. You are good at it and that is what you have to do.” My goal has always been to make my gymnasts look beautiful, so that they would become one of the best in the sport. Whatever it was that needed to be corrected with my gymnasts, I worked very hard on it. Rhythmic Gymnastics is the kind of sport that makes girls beautiful and physically strong. It helps them to keep themselves fit and graceful. When a gymnast is passing by, you can immediately see this, even just by the way she walks.



What were your goals when you were working for the USSR team, and how did you achieve them?


Albina Deriugina: We were working hard and doing everything possible so that Rhythmic Gymnastics would become an Olympic sport. And I always wanted to make Ukrainian girls the best. I was learning from all the coaches from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan and Russia and looking at their gymnasts, who were doing something well. I was trying to keep my gymnasts inside the school, especially when they had children, future gymnasts. When my daughter Irina finished her Gymnastics career, I brought her to the gym and said that from now on she would be a coach. That is how we started working together like two hands. She was a gymnast with wonderful natural abilities and great chorographical preparation, which is what brought the gymnasts of the national team to a new level. Other coaches were growing out of Gymnastics: Viktoria Bessonova, Anna’s mother, for example. She was my student and later I decided to hire her as a coach.

For 20 years my life was always between Moscow and Kiev due to my work for the USSR national team. Today, there are 23 regions in Ukraine that foster Rhythmic Gymnastics, and that’s a lot. It is difficult for me to combine my work as national head coach and head of the federation.


How would you describe the different styles in Rhythmic Gymnastics in the leading countries of the sport?


Albina Deriugina: First of all, the Russian school was always different due to intense physical preparation. The gymnasts from Omsk were always doing acrobatics outdoors, even in winter. We were better in choreography, so when they were coming to us, we were teaching choreography to them, while meanwhile we were also learning acrobatics from them. And that is how Kazakhstan also became very strong, as they had a good team in “Spartak” as well. So everybody understood that it is necessary to train together, to organise mutual training camps. Belarusian gymnasts always had very nice leaps; they were also strong in physical preparation. All the generations among top countries – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria – are very different. These countries were leading also because they were working and training together and understood how to learn from each other. What is common to each nation and what was founded by the first coaches is what needs to be preserved. I think that this is what each republic and now independent country has to keep in mind, and it is what the work with the gymnasts should be based on.


What is it that you have the fondest memories about in your life?


Albina Deriugina: The best memories I have are from the times when my whole family was still together and my husband Ivan Konstaninovich was still alive. Gymnastics comes and goes, while the most important and most valuable are people and family. That is what is always in your memory. All that is here (cups and medals), I call it simply medal, but it’s done by humans. Every single cup is very significant, because it was won by a team, and that is what is always very touching.