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“Latynina's fame peaked at a time when television in the Soviet Union was practically nonexistent. Although she is revered and respected by the gymnastics community at home and abroad, she is not as visible as Comaneci and younger gymnasts. Comaneci said Latynina was determined "to be the best," although gymnastics was a very different sport in that era. "They were actually ladies competing in gymnastics. And you look back at the equipment, it was different then," Comaneci said. "I don't want to say primitive, but that's what it was. The beam was wood, it was not very good for your heels." Latynina came from a background in ballet, raised by a single mother amid World War II because her father was killed in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 when she was 9. She told state-owned Rossiya TV n 2010 that her mother swept floors, washed dishes and worked as a night guard to pay for her dance classes in her hometown of Kherson, on the Black Sea, while Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. But Latynina had to give up ballet when her teacher left town, and she turned instead to gymnastics. Because Latynina's success was so long ago, people outside the sport may have forgotten what she accomplished. "This is the first time people worldwide are acknowledging her in such a wonderful way for what she's done," Comaneci said. "People tend to forget things. Eighteen medals -- that's a lot." Latynina said that she doesn't regret that her record was broken, because Phelps deserves it. "He did a great job. As an athlete, I could only be happy to see that there is such a talented athlete who was able to break that record," she said. Latynina still owns several records and is the only woman to have won nine Olympic gold medals. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the news agency R-Sport that Latynina "will still remain one of the greatest athletes in history."
I saw him swim, and I saw my record swim away. ... He did a great job. As an athlete, I could only be happy to see that there is such a talented athlete who was able to break that record.” -- Larisa Latynina on Michael Phelps