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Nina Bocharova, first Olympic balance beam champion, dies at 95

Russia's lady gymnasts marching up for m

Russia’s lady gymnasts marching up for medals at 1952 Olympics. (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

The LIFE Picture Collection via

Nina Bocharova, who won the first Olympic balance beam competition among four medals for the Soviet Union at the 1952 Helsinki Games, died on Monday at age 95, according to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and Ukraine’s Olympic Committee.

Bocharova, of Ukraine, was part of the Soviet Union’s first Olympic team in 1952. It dominated the women’s gymnastics competition, winning 11 medals overall, kicking off a run of eight straight Olympic team titles from 1952-80.

Bocharova was a Soviet national champion in 1949 and 1951. In Helsinki, she also earned silver in the first Olympic women’s all-around behind Mariya Horokhovska, who remains the only woman to win seven medals at a single Games in any sport.

Bocharova retired after earning team gold at the 1954 World Championships.

“With women’s artistic gymnastics still in its infancy, Bocharova exuded strength and grace, the trademarks for which the Soviet program came to be known,” according to the FIG.