Though speaking through an interpreter, gymnast Vladimir Artemov, the all-around champion of the Seoul 1988 Olympics, had no trouble articulating his love for small towns like Cedar City.
"I really enjoy the nature of the area, and there are very good people here," he said.He had less success in pinpointing the difference between American and Soviet women.
"I never think about this," he said, then added that the American girls he meets appear more friendly and smile more.
So it was as Soviet and American gymnasts submitted to the probing glare of multimedia attention as their Friendship Tour continued. The gymnasts performed Friday night at the Centrum at Southern Utah State College.
But before the performance, the group kept a full slate of activities, many with a western flavor. They stopped at a western store, attended a western horse parade and an authentic rodeo featuring professional cowboys. Wednesday night, the delegation was treated to an open pit barbecue with all the trimmings and were entertained by country fiddlers, western dance bands and the Osmond Boys singing group.
A parade featuring horses, bands, marching groups and mountain men was a favorite of several of the Soviets.
One group of trail riders stopped along the route to give visiting gymnasts horse rides. Interpreter for the Soviet group, Luda Balashova, showed she was no stranger to horses as she rode in front of the Centrum. For others like Elena Shevchenko and Natalia Kalinina, it was a first in America, and they showed their excitement as they were each given mounts.
The opportunity to see a genuine rodeo was not only a first for the Soviets but several of the American men and women had never witnessed a rodeo. The delegation got to see Lewis Feild, the world all-around cowboy in 1985, 1986 and 1987, and a number of others from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association .
The group also visited Jolley's Western Wear where the Americans and Soviets were all given a Wrangler jacket, a pair of Wrangler western jeans and an authentic cowboy hat. The owner of the store, Evan Jolley, said that it cost about $100 to outfit each of the 50 members of the group and that the funding came from Wrangler, Jolleys and the Utah Summer Games.
Ludmilla Stobchatay of Odessa, 4 feet 8 inches tall and 68 pounds, had a difficult time finding a jacket small enough for her. Thirty-four was the smallest adult size and it drowned her. She did find a smaller jacket in the children's section but the sleeves were still three inches too long. At the other extreme, one of the Soviet coaches needed a double "x" size to fit him.
Representing the United States at the exhibition were Christy Henrich and Scott Burr, 1988 Olympians, Kelly Garrison-Steves, Scott Johnson, Charles Lakes and Lance Ringnald. For the Soviets, Olympians Artemov, Shevchenko, Svetlana Baitova and Olga Strazheva were joined by Kalinina, Stobchataya, Elena Sozonenkova, Valery Belenkij, Dmitri Vorobiev and Gennady Zaddrozhny.