Nellie Kim's Journey:
From Small Town Gym to International Triumph
Nellie Kim was born on July 29, 1957, to a Korean father and a Tatar mother. At the age of nine, she enrolled in gymnastics classes at the Chimkent City Children's and Youth Sports School. The facility was a far stretch from today’s modern gyms and this was her coach’s first experience working in gymnastics.
After a challenging first few years, Nellie’s determination and self-discipline began to earn her results on the regional arena. Her own inner strength and the support of her first coach, Vladimir Borisovich Baidin, proved a good match for Nellie’s style and strengths.
At the 1971 Junior USSR Championships, Nellie placed fifth in the all-around. Later, after a second-place finish at the USSR Cup in 1974, she was added to the team roster for the World Championships where she earned a gold medal in the team competition and a bronze on balance beam. Nellie went on to win the 1976 USSR Cup and then headed to the Olympics as a member of the Soviet team.
At the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, the rivalry between Kim, Korbut and Comaneci became the focus of the women’s gymnastics competition. Nellie won three gold medals (victory on half of the women’s gymnastics events) on vault and floor exercise and in the team competitions. She received the world’s first perfect 10 on vault when she performing the first full-twisting Tsukahara in Olympic history. Nellie executed the first ever double salto on floor exercise in Olympic women’s events en route to a gold medal and the first ever perfect 10 score to be given on the event. Nellie also took home the silver medal individual all-around for a total of four medals in the 1976 Games.
Nellie continued her career with a win at the 1980 USSR Championships and earned two more gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which was her last meet.
Since retiring from competition, Nellie has been an active coach and judge. She has judged a wide range of international competitions, including European Championships, World Championships and the Olympic Games. She has participated in every Olympic Games since 1976 as either a competitor, coach or judge. Her gymnastics career is one of the most accomplished in the history of the sport.
In 1996, Nellie was elected a member of the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee under the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG WTC). In 2000, Nellie was elected Vice President of the WTC. In 2004, she was elected WTC President and subsequently re-elected for second and third terms in 2008 and 2012.