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Khorkina targets third Olympic gold

July 30, 2004

With her bewitching smile and alluring personality, Svetlana Khorkina has made a seamless transition from Olympic champion to Playboy centrefold.

Svetlana KhorkhinaNot one to adhere to the norm, Khorkina loves being in the spotlight, be it with her gymnastics, modelling exploits or acting.

The self-styled 'queen of the asymmetric bars' will put her non-sporting activities on hold next month as she aims to become the first gymnast to win the same apparatus title at three consecutive Olympic Games.

"I look around and I can't find any shining gymnasts now. My strongest rival is myself. If I am capable of defeating myself, I shouldn't bother with the others," the 25-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

While such a statement sounds arrogant, 13 golds in Olympic, world and European competitions prove Khorkina's superiority in her signature event.

Ever since she was introduced to gymnastics by her mother, Khorkina has brought an unrivalled blend of elegance and athleticism to the sport.

Her long-limbed grace and gliding movements in flight on the bars has set her apart from the pre-pubescent teenagers who tumble on to the world stage only to suffer an early burnout.

The Russian is also determined to land the Olympic all-round gold before she bows out of the international arena later this year.

Four years ago, Khorkina was favourite to win the title but her hopes were dashed by a fall from the vault. It was later discovered the horse had been set five centimetres too short and an incensed Khorkina blamed the error for her failure.

Last year she became the only athlete to win three world championship all-round titles. With a hat-trick of European titles also in her possession, Khorkina would dearly love to complete the collection with another Olympic gold.

"I would like to be remembered as the unique Svetlana Khorkina, such as I am, with all that I have achieved," she says.

"I hope I have contributed a lot to gymnastics and that my name will remain in its history."

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