Vitaly Scherbo: a bundle of energy

12 Jan 2007
IOC News

Vitaly Scherbo is unquestionably the greatest gymnast in Olympic history. It took him just one edition of the Games to win six Olympic titles: a rare achievement. Vitaly Scherbo is celebrating his 35th birthday on 13 January 2007, and is more involved than ever with gymnastics.

The agreeable side of life
Vitaly Scherbo’s first Olympic Games were in Barcelona, in 1992. Although underestimated by his coach, who criticised him for being inconsistent, his motivation and determination remained strong throughout the seven events for which he was entered. The young Belarusian got off to a perfect start: the Unified Team (made up of the countries comprising the former USSR), with Scherbo at the forefront, took first place in the team competition with 585.450 points, five more than the People’s Republic of China. Two days later, he continued where he had left off by winning the individual all-around competition with the incredible score of 59.025. In the meantime, the young gymnast qualified for the final of the parallel bars, the vault, the rings and the pommel horse. On 2 August 1992, Vitaly achieved four near-perfect performances: he won the four apparatus competitions and collected four gold medals on the same day. Aged 20, Vitaly Scherbo became the first gymnast to win six gold medals, and the first athlete ever to win four gold medals on the same day.
Four years later in Atlanta, the Belarusian athlete competed in the Games of the XXVI Olympiad. He finished on the podium four times, this time in third place: quite an achievement considering the family problems he had been facing just a few months before.
The disagreeable side of life
There is always a downside for every upside, and Vitaly Scherbo is unfortunately no exception to the rule. Shortly after the Games in Barcelona, the Scherbo family apartment was burgled, and several of his trophies were stolen. Luckily, the six Olympic medals had been left for safe-keeping at his mother’s house. A few weeks later, his wife Irina narrowly prevented their newborn daughter Kristina from being kidnapped. Without further ado, they decided to leave Belarus for the safety of their child, and moved to the USA. In 1996, a few months before the Games in Atlanta, Irina was involved in a serious car accident which left her in a coma. Vitaly then gave up gymnastics completely, to spend his days at his wife’s bedside. After a month, she miraculously regained consciousness and progressively got better. Finally, in 1997, Vitaly  broke his wrist in a motorbike accident and announced his retirement, aware that he would never again achieve peak form.
Gymnastics as therapy
Mrs Scherbo could no longer stand her young son’s hyperactivity, and had to find something to channel his energy. Luckily, she found the perfect solution for young Vitaly: gymnastics. So he began training at the age of seven and, contrary to all expectations, fell in love with the sport. This is quite remarkable, given that gymnastics requires harmony between body and mind: a difficult balance to strike for a hyperactive boy. Transforming his abundant energy into precise movements and unflinching concentration, he progressed at his own pace, and quickly stood out from the other boys. For Vitaly, it was a means of fulfilling himself and gaining respect, both physically and mentally.
Today, Vitaly Scherbo focuses exclusively on the educational aspect of gymnastics. In November 1998, he opened the Vitaly Scherbo School of Gymnastics in Las Vegas, an establishment for children and youngsters aged from 16 months to 16 which enables them to develop confidence and self-esteem.

Vitaly Scherbo proved his talent as a gymnast by winning 10 Olympic medals over two Olympiads, and 11 world titles. He also proved his courage towards his family by overcoming some serious obstacles: a true champion!

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