The first male "perfect ten"
Four years prior to the 1980 Games in Moscow, a sensation had been caused when Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect ten in an Olympic event, namely the uneven bars.
Yet, it was only a matter of time before that honour would be conferred upon a male gymnast of similar calibre.
In Moscow, he showed up in the shape of the Soviet Union's 22-year-old Alexander Dityatin (vault - all around competition). At last, the Soviets, who had played decisive roles in the development of Olympic, and indeed, world gymnastics, were awarded their "perfect ten". The Leningrad-born gymnast would also walk away with numerous medals.
Dityatin's perfect ten score brought him worldwide attention, but being decided on the axis of time, it seemed that someone would eventually match Comaneci's feat. Indeed, following his "ten" triumph, no less than four other such scores were awarded in gymnastics events in Moscow: Stoyan Deltchev on the rings (Bulgaria), Alexander Tkachyov (Sov/Russ) on the horizontal bar, Zoltan Magyar (Hungary) and Michael Nikolay (East Germany) on the side horse.
Secret of success
It must have been sweet music to Dityatin, who for so long had languished in the shadow of his compatriot Nikolai Andrianov, to be told of his historic score. What perhaps gave the handsome Russian even more satisfaction, however, was his haul of eight medals following the events in Moscow.
With a total of three gold, four silver, and a bronze, he added even more prestige to his "10" score by becoming the first person to win as many medals in one Olympiad. Not bad for someone who, as a child, was not considered an outstanding sporting prospect.
The secret of his success was consistency. For Dityatin, unusually tall for a gymnast (1.74m), an advantage lay in his mastery of the rings. Having been in the shadow of Andrianov for so long, to arrive at his present athletic state he had worked long and hard. This soon showed in the all-around event (comprising six different categories), in which he excelled and came first on the rings and vault. Combined with second places in the horizontal bars and the parallel bars, and third places on the side horse and the floor exercise, Dityatin won gold and gave a solid indication of his well-deserved rise since a fourth place in the Montreal Games four years earlier.
His other wins came in the team combined event (gold), the rings (gold), the horizontal bars, parallel bars, vault and pommel horse (all silver) and finally, the floor exercises (bronze).
Dityatin made an indelible mark on his sport and may rightly be regarded as one of the few gymnasts to have introduced a certain finesse into men's gymnastics.
Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.