RHYTHMIC CHAMPIONS Three's A Chann By Mike Botkin hen most experts looked at the prospects comingintothe 1987 U.S. Rhythmic Championships, April 3-5, they came to the conclusion it was a battle between defending National Champion Marina Kunyavsky and upstart Diane Simpson. And when push came to shove, most were secretly giving the nod to the newcomer. What most did not figure on was a rejuvenated Kunyavsky, looking slimmer and more poised than ever before, to come into Shelbyville, Indiana, and breeze to her third consecutive title. With the victory, Kunyavsky moved into second place ahead of Candace Feinberg (national champion 1974 and 1975) for most national championships. She still trails Sue Soffe, who won an amazing six consecutive national titles from 1976 through 1981. In the years since Kunyavsky immigrated from the Soviet Union and became a U.S. citizen, her main
strength has been execution. With machine-like precision, she can execute a routine with few mistakes. Her weakness came in her expression. The difference between Kunyavsky then, and Kunyavsky now, is in her expression. Flowing through her innovative routines with little or no hint of miscues, Kunyavsky gave back to the routine what her accompaniment put into it. Smiling as she stepped through her light ribbon routine, and carrying the weight of the oppressed world during her drum-aided clubs routine, Kunyavsky showed she was still the power to be reckoned with in this country. Another important ingredient in Kunyavsky's routines was her confidence. She displayed an abundance of it throughout the meet both on and off the competitive floor. It was e~i足 dent there was a very Intense competitive fire burning in her eyes, but this student of AlIa Svirsky looked relaxed. Waving to the crowd from atop the victor's stand, Kunyavsky had a Cheshire cat's grin, as if she knew all along what the results would prove.
"AlIa (Svirsky) did not work me as hard this year as she did last," said Kunyavsky. "I am more relaxed, more ready to compete." Simpson gave her a tough battle. Her performance was just as good, except for her clubs routine where a costly miscue resulted in a devastating 9.05 which left no doubt as to whom the winner would be. While warming up behind the competition floor, Simpson tossed a club high into the air where it became entangled with a basketball net that was dangling from the ceiling some 40 feet up. With her turn in the rotation impending, Simpson was unable to retrieve her club and was forced to use an unfamiliar club during her routine. It was this club she dropped out of bounds costing her a chance at the national championship. Simpson's strength comes from her flexibility and expression. Her flexibility is akin to that once demonstrated by Stacy Oversier. If there is a weakness, it would have to be in her execution. Even though she competed with more confidence than ever before,
Marina Kunyavsky won her third consecutive National Championship with excellent technique and a new-found showmanship. her execution was her downnall again. "I could have done better," said Simpson with her second consecutive silver medal adorning her neck. "I can't blame the club, I have to blame myself. I was a bundle of nerves out there. I'm not that disappointed. My main goal was to make the national team and I did that. That's what is really important," she said. Simpson wasn't the only gymnast from Illinois Rhythmics to crack the top five, Dacon Lister, in probably her finest performance to date, won