Alexei Nemov’s routines were packed full of exciting skills and made him one of the most popular male gymnasts in history. He had a unique style and elegance whenever he performed and won a total of 12 Olympic medals in his career.
As a 16-year-old he made his debut at the 1993 World Championships, finishing fifth in the floor exercises. The following year, he established himself as a true all-around contender, winning his qualifying session at the World Championships, though he was ultimately only able to finish 12th overall. He won his first major all-around title at the Goodwill Games in St.Petersburg in 1994.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Alexei produced a tour de force, winning two gold (vault and team), one silver and three bronze medals.
Over the next four years he continually battled recurring shoulder injuries, yet he surprised everyone at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he produced the best gymnastics of his career, once again taking home six medals – two gold, one silver and three bronze - including gold in the all-round competition and high bar.
While Alexei was competing in Sydney, his wife gave birth to his son in September 2000 and when Alexei returned home to Russia, he said he was taking him a golden rattle – the all-around gold medal.
Although never regaining his form of 2000, he competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics, mainly as an anchor for the fledgling Russian team.
Alexei’s performances in Athens brought the house down, but placed him in the middle of a judging controversy. After performing a routine with several release skills in the high bar finals, the judges posted a score of 9.725. The outraged Greek crowd upon seeing the results interrupted the competition for nearly 15 minutes.
The judges re-evaluated the routine and increased his score to 9.762, but still out of the medals. The crowd continued their raucous protest, which only subsided after Alexei stepped up to the podium and pleaded for quiet for the sake of the other competitors. This incident produced a reconstruction of the scoring system which was implemented in 2006 and which encouraged more acrobatic activity. Alexei’s integrity was recognised by the Russian Olympic Committee.
Alexei retired after the 2004 Olympics, having won five world titles and three European Championship gold medals to go with his 12 Olympic medals.