Maria Filatova

Maria Evgenievna Filatova (Russian: Мария Евгеньевна Филатова)

Maria Filatova moving Springboard

Two time Russian Olympic gymnastics champion, Maria Filatova, now age 50, is battling to regain her official Russian passport/citizenship status, so she can travel outside of the United States and return to her home town and home country. Maria Filatova won gold medals at both the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games.

New Article and Links on Maria Filatova’s Passport Problems

Elizabeth Booth of the “Rewriting Russian Gymnastics” blog was perhaps the first to make everyone aware of this situation in the United States. She has a new article, “Maria Filatova in 1977 – A Year of Firsts” which also has some links to Russian blogs and news sources about the Maria Filatova Kourbatova’s passport problems.

Soviet Sport Gazette Campaign

Give citizenship to Maria Filatova!
The Soviet Sport Gazette newspaper is launching a campaign for two-time Olympic champion, Maria Filatova, who is not currently allowed to visit Russia. In their article (which we Google-translated) Give us citizenship Maria Filatova! Our newspaper is launching a campaign for the repatriation of two-time Olympic champion, who is not allowed in Russia, the newspaper summarizes the history of the situation and makes a plea for her to receive permission to visit and a Russian passport.

There are a number of interesting new bits of information in this article, including the fact that her problem may not be governmental, but may have come from or been complicated by a sports “political” problem Maria’s coaches had with the Gymnastics Sports Committee of the USSR years ago. Or that, as a young teenager, sought out by the media, Maria may have inadvertently made a comment that was interpreted as negative by those Russian sports officials of the Gymnastics Sports Committee.

Apparently the dispute with her coaches and the Gymnastics Sports Committee of the USSR resulted in her being forced to train with new coaches and eventually having no choice but to be transferred to training in Minsk, Belarus.

That article also points out that during the time that Maria Filatova has been cut off from her home in Leninsk-Kuznetsk, and that her mother, brother and two coaches have died and she was not allowed to travel home to attend their funerals and she is still not able to visit their graves.

As is indicated below in the comments by Alexey Golovchenko, there is a process by which Russian citizenship, in these circumstances, can be obtained. But that process does not really apply in this situation.

For this process, it is necessary to live in Russia. In addition, there is another major caveat and Catch-22 in that it is impossible to obtain a Russian visa to go to Russia with no passport and no citizenship anywhere. This Catch-22 results in a vicious circle that in order to obtain citizenship, Filatova has to go to Russia and to live there but she can’t go there without already having the right papers (plus she does not wish to leave her family and business in the U.S. right now).

Actually, the easiest way might be for her to apply for U.S. citizenship so she could travel, but here it is important to understand that Maria wants to again become a citizen of Russia. She may find that at some point dual citizenship, like many other Russian coaches and athletes have, may become the path she takes.

The “Soviet Sport Gazette” supports her right to become a Russian citizen again. They say it is not her fault that their laws do not allow this two-time Olympic champion of the USSR to return to her home country and an exception should be made for her and perhaps others like her. We at GymnasticsZone.com support that position and Maria as well.

Maria Filatova Kourbatova’s current Russian passport and immigration problems arise from the fact that her Soviet passport expired almost twenty years ago in the early 1990s. She originally left Russia to coach and choreograph in Northern Ireland, because in that old Russian economic climate, she felt she needed more money to feed her family.

She currently lives and owns a gym in Rochester, New York and has applied unsuccessfully for a new Russian passport a number of times. Her application has always been rejected with the stated reason being “lack of merit.” There are many things that one might say about Maria Filatova, but none of them could ever involve her displaying a lack of merit.

Now there is no doubt that those of us in the United States want her to continue to develop gymnasts here in the United States, for selfish and nationalistic reasons. But such a decorated and hard-working icon on the sport should have the choice to live, work, travel and coach where she wants. GymnasticsZone firmly supports her right and desire to get her Russian passport, return home and visit, whenever she wants.

We call on any and every Russian coach, gymnasts and former gymnast, who has any influence to support her petition and to take positive action to help her in her quest to allow her to return to obtain a Russian passport immediately and be able to return to her home town of Leninsk-Kuznetsky or even just to be able to travel outside of the United States. We cannot understand why anyone, especially in Russia, would have any problem with this at all.

This is not the first time, Maria and her family have had to deal with bureaucracy. Her daughter, Alexandra, qualified for the US JO National Championships, but was not allowed to compete, because she was not yet an American citizen.

Some of the above information for this part of of our story, originally came from RIANOVOSTI at http://en.ria.ru/.

Maria Filatova Articles

The Moscow Times article, “World Champion Soviet Gymnast Says Russia Denied Her Citizenship” about Maria Filatova on March 15, 2012 clearly demonstrates that Maria Filatova Kourbatova never wanted to draw attention to herself or cause any problems. She just wants to be able to travel and be able to return home and visit her homeland.

Nicholas Rohan of the Soviet Sports Gazette has also written one article supporting Maria Filatova and a second article describing efforts on her behalf by State Duma deputy, triple Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, Alexander Karelin and others, but finishing with no tangible results from those efforts.

Soviet Sports News had an article titled Nikolai Valuev: Could help Filatova about the general manager of Team Russia, Nikolay Valuev, who promised to help two-time Olympic champion Maria Filatova to obtain Russian citizenship.

Elizabeth Booth’s article: Maria Filatova: Russian Sparrow Made in the USSR

RIANOVOSTI article: Soviet Star Fights to Return Home

International Gymnast Magazine Online article, “Filatova Fights for Right to Visit Russia.”

Maria Filatova Beam

Biography of Maria Filatova Kourbatova

Name: Maria Evgenievna Filatova (Russian: Мария Евгеньевна Филатова)
Married Name: Maria Filatova Kourbatova
Nicknames: Masha, “The Russian Sparrow” or the “Siberian Sparrow”
Born: July 19, 1961
Born in: Leninsk-Kuznetsky, Siberia
Height: 4′ 6″ tall (the smallest competitor at the 1976 Montreal Olympics)
Coaches: Innokenty and Galina Mametyev
International Gymnastics Career: 1975 – 1981
USSR National Team: Beginning in 1974 – USSR Junior National Team
Vault Original Skills: Tsukuhara with full twist (1976 USSR Nationals Event Finals)
Uneven Bar Original Skills: Giant, cross hands, half turn into straddle front somersault to catch high bar
Balance Beam Original Skills: Flip-flop layout & flip-flop two layouts in a row, Beam dismounts – 2-foot Flip-flop, double twist/double back/double pike
FX Original Skills: Round-off flip-flop, double back/double pike/full-in (1st on Soviet team)
Retired from Gymnastics Competition: 1982/1983
Education: Novosibirsk State Pedagogical Institute – 1984 graduate
Moscow Circus: 1985 & 1986
Husband: Soviet power tumbler Alexander “Sasha” Kourbatov
Daughter: Alexandra Kourbatova (“Sasha” or “Shashenka”)
Coaching Career: From 1988 to 1991 she worked at the Sports School in Minsk (during which time, she also coached a month in Poland and 3 months in Germany under contract). Coached at Salto Gymnastics and the Irish National Team in Belfast, Ireland (1991 -1996), Buckeye Gymnastics Center, Columbus, Ohio (1996) and coached at Rochester Gymnastics Center in Rochester, NY for 8 years
Current Gym: Kour Magic Gymnastics Center, Rochester, New York
Gym Address: 121 Lincoln Ave Rochester, NY 14611/3535 Winton Place
Rochester NY 14623
Gym E-mail: KourGym@gmail.com
Current Gym ownership: Maria, her husband Alexander and daughter Alexandra own Kour Magic Gymnastics Center
Gym Web Site: Kour Magic Gymnastics Center
Gym Phone #: 585-943-3296

Maria Filatova – National/International Gymnastics Awards

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1981
1981 Antibes International: 2nd All-Around, 3rd FX
1981 University Games: 2nd Place Team, 5th All-Around
1981 World Championships: 1st Place Team, 2nd All-Around

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1980
1980 Olympic Games: 1st Place Team, 3rd Uneven Bars
1980 Riga International: 3rd All-Around
1980 USSR Cup: 5th All-Around
1980 World Cup: 13th All-Around

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1979
1979 Paris Grand Prix: 1st All-Around
1979 Riga International: 1st All-Around, 1st Vault, 1st Balance Beam, 1st FX
1979 University Games: 2nd All-Around
1979 USSR Spartakiade: 4th All-Around
1979 USSR Nationals: 2nd All-Around
1979 World Cup: 12th All-Around
1979 World Championships: 2nd Place Team, 4th All-Around

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1978
1978 Moscow News: 2nd All-Around, 2nd Vault, 1st Uneven Bars, 1st Balance Beam
1978 USSR Championships: 2nd All-Around
1978 World Championships: 1st Place Team, 4th Uneven Bars
1978 World Cup: 1st All-Around, 1st FX

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1977
1977 European Championships: 5th All-Around, 3rd Balance Beam, 1st FX
1977 Moscow News: 1st All-Around, 3rd Vault, 2nd Uneven Bars, 1st Balance Beam, 1st FX
1977 Paris Grand Prix: 1st All-Around, 2nd Vault, 1st Uneven Bars, 1st Balance Beam, 1st FX
1977 Riga International: 1st All-Around
1977 USSR Cup: 4th All-Around, 1st Balance Beam, 2nd FX
1977 USSR Nationals: 1st All-Around
1977 World Cup: 1st AA, 2nd V, 2nd UB, 5th BB, 1st FX

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1976
1976 Riga International: 1st All-Around
1976 Olympic Games: 1st Place Team
1976 Moscow News: 2nd All-Around
1976 USSR Cup: 7th All-Around, 3rd Balance Beam
1976 USSR Nationals: 4th All-Around

National/International Gymnastics Awards – 1975
1975 Chunichi Cup: 5th All-Around
1975 Druzhba: 3rd All-Around
1975 JPN-USSR Dual Meet: 2nd All-Around
1975 Jr. USSR-ROM Dual Meet: 3rd All-Around
1975 Milk Meet: 2nd All-Around

Maria Filatova – 1976 Olympics Floor Exercise Video


Maria Filatova was known for her expressive, artistic and alluring floor exercise show-stopping performances and her high level of tumbling skills. In 1975, she became one of the first female gymnasts to do double back somersaults on floor.

Maria Filatova – 1980 Olympics Event Finals – Uneven Bars

Maria Filatova 1977 Europeans Event Finals Beam

Maria Filatova – Balance Beam – 1980 USSR Gymnastics Cup

Maria Filatova – 1981 Worlds AA – Layout Tzukahara Vault

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