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A REBORN RUSSIAN, A NEW NADIA
Craig Neff
November 02, 1987
The Soviets and Romanians shone as the U.S. flopped in the world championships
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November 02, 1987

A Reborn Russian, A New Nadia

The Soviets and Romanians shone as the U.S. flopped in the world championships

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In Rotterdam, Bilozerchev dominated the men's events, winning the pommel horse and the high bar titles and holding off two-time world champion Yuri Korolev in the all-around. Bilozerchev's tremendous upper body seemed to dwarf his tiny legs: He swung his feet so high on the horse he looked ready to fly off into the rafters. Every line in every move was straight and sharp. "He has an elegance and a style that have brought our sport to a new level," said former U.S. Olympic star Bart Conner, watching from the stands. "What is it about Baryshnikov that makes your heart stop? Bilozerchev has it."

The meet in Rotterdam was supposed to have been an equally auspicious coming-out for Phillips. Instead, the 4'11", 87-pound 10th-grader finished in a tie for 45th following a miserable compulsory performance in which she clobbered one of the uneven bars, stumbled on the balance beam and landed facedown on her vault. "I'm just going to go in and hit my routines and show everybody that I am Kristie Phillips," she announced afterward, looking ahead to the optionals. "I'll show them I still have that spark I always had."

Phillips, who trains in Houston under Romanian expatriate Bela Karolyi, former coach of both Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, had been riding a massive publicity wave that included her appearance on SI's Sept. 1, 1986 cover with the billing, THE NEW MARY LOU.

That designation was premature. Phillips is showy, charismatic and generally good under pressure, but she's not yet Mary Lou. In fact, she's not even considered as physically talented a prospect as, say, Karolyi stablemate Phoebe Mills, 15, of Northfield, Ill., or Melissa Marlowe, 16, of Salt Lake City.

Phillips did perform quite respectably in her optional routines, although she failed to qualify for the all-around final, in which the top U.S. finisher was Rhonda Faehn in 19th place. ( Dan Hayden, the only U.S. man to reach the men's all-around finals, placed 22nd.)

Daggett, still hospitalized with his leg in traction as the meet ended, has faced adversity before. He had come back from both mononucleosis and a ruptured disk in the last eight months, and was leading the U.S. men in scoring last week until his ill-fated vault. "If he comes back from this, he's got to be the bravest man I've ever known," said Johnson. Perhaps Daggett can look to Bilozerchev for inspiration. And "the new Mary Lou," still young, can look to the new Nadia.

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