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Tiny Kochetkova stands tall

By DEAN SCHABNER UPI Sports Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, July 31 -- Even by gymnasts' standards, there's not much to Dina Kochetkova. Standing on the winner's podium Sunday night after the all-around competition in the 1994 Goodwill Games, she was barely taller than 4- foot 11-inch Shannon Miller, who stood on the silver medalist's platform some five inches below her. But Kochetkova stood tall when she had to, and that was what put her on the highest pedestal. The 17-year-old Russian, who celebrated her birthday four days ago, is the first girl to beat Miller in an all- around competition in two years, since Tatyana Gutsu of the Unified team did it at the Barcelona Olympics. Kochetkova did not have the highest score on the vault, the uneven bars or the beam, but her consistency had her in first place after the first three events. Then Miller, who was immediately before her in the rotation, turned in a brilliant performance on the floor exercises. The scores showed with a perfect 10.0 for Miller from the Romanian judge, Mirela Szemerjar. Kochetkova, who won the gold medal in thefloor exercises at the 1994 World Championships in April, was even more brilliant, lifting effortlessly on her flips and nailing every landing. It turned out that the 10 that showed for Miller was inadvertent, the result of the Romanian judge hitting the wrong key. The one Kochetkova received from Russian judge Tatyana Zamotailova, though, was genuine and in the the official results the Russian received a 9.925 compared to Miller's 9.900.

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'There were mistakes on every routine,' Miller's coach Steve Nunno said. 'But I think the closest we saw was on the floor exercises.' Kochetkova is coming back from a foot injury, and she has only been with coach Leonid Arkaev for a year, after her former coach left Russia for Japan. 'You can't pick your parents,' Arkaev said, and the change hasn't seemed to hurt Kochetkova. Kochetkova won the bronze medal in the all-around competition at the 1994 World Championships. She placed sixth on the vault and third on the uneven bars, in addition to winning the floor exercise. Miller made it hard on Kochetkova, who took the lead on the uneven bars. She concluded her routine with a giant swing into her dismount, which she nailed. Miller, though, turned in a flawless performance on the beam, earning a 9.887. Kochetkova, who scored a 9.775 on the beam in the all-around at World Championships, needed at least a 9.818 to hold onto her lead. With a brilliant performance that included three back somersaults into her dismount, Kochetkova scored 9.850. 'I think I did fine today,' said Kochetkova, who barely cracked a smile during the interviews after the competition. 'But I expected much more.' She'll have a chance Monday night, when the women compete in the individual apparatus championships.

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