At the 1960 Rome Olympics, he won seven medals (including four golds) to be crowned the best athlete at the Games

Boris Shakhlin, the great Soviet gymnast, personified consistency, strength and calmness.

In an era when gymnastics was being redefined by the Soviets and the Japanese, Shakhlin took the sport to greater heights with his near-flawless approach and regular success. With 13 medals, including seven golds, he stands fourth on the all-time list of most individual medals at the Olympics.

Born in Ishim, Siberia, Shakhlin lost his parents at the age of 12. He took interest in gymnastics and received top-class training.

Deep impact

World-class training, however, wasn’t the only factor behind Shakhlin’s rise. His encounters with fellow Soviet gymnast Viktor Chukarin had a deep impact on his career.

Chukarin, a legend, went on to win 11 Olympic medals. The only time the duo contested in the same team at the Olympics was at Melbourne in 1956, where Chukarin won five medals while Shakhlin won two.

Chukarin’s retirement left a void in the world of gymnastics. However, for a man of Shakhlin’s ability it was never going to be tough to replace him. Two years later, Shakhlin won five golds at the world championships in Moscow to cement his place as the undisputed star of men’s gymnastics. He bettered his performance at the 1960 Rome Olympics as he won seven medals (including four golds) to be crowned the best athlete at the Games.

Despite winning four golds in Rome, Shakhlin’s most cherished medal was the bronze he won on the horizontal bar. During that competition, his hand grip came away and his hand started to bleed. But Shakhlin persevered to finish third. The Siberian legend went on to win four more medals in Tokyo before announcing his retirement in 1966.

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