INDIANAPOLIS -- There are few sure things left in sports. The New York Yankees don't win pennants the way they used to, the Boston Celtics no longer routinely raise championship banners to the roof of their crumbling arena and the Dallas Cowboys are rarely called America's Team.
But in gymnastics, the Soviet Union dominates. Not even a failed coup and the end of communism can stop the Soviet dynasty.
With the sound of thunder rolling through the Hoosier Dome during last night's all-around men's final, the only drama was in waiting to discover which Soviet would claim the gold. After six events and two hours of competition, Grigori Misutin emerged as the 1991 world all-around champion. Misutin, a shy, blond, 21-year-old from Lugansk, recorded 59.050 points out of 60.
The Soviets, who won the team competition by seven points bTC Tuesday, also took the silver and bronze medals.
Vitaly Scherbo, the Soviets' designated hot dog, who shows up for practices wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts and sunglasses, finished second with 58.950. Valeri Liukin, an inconsistent performer who normally does best when under duress, injured his left heel on a hard landing off the high bar and finished third with 58.550.
Scott Keswick, a 21-year-old UCLA senior, was 10th with 57.825 points, the highest U.S. finish since 1983. Jarrod Hanks was 16th with 57.525 points and Chris Waller was 20th with 57.375 points, giving the United States its strongest overall performance in more than a decade.
"It's frustrating to have the Soviets win every meet, every time," Keswick said. "But they're the best. They make the sport look artistic. They make it look very easy. I think they're a great motivation for everyone else in the world. In a way, it's sad to see the political changes in the world are affecting a lot of countries and hurting their sports, like Bulgaria. But I don't think it's going to happen to the Soviets for a while."
As expected, the Soviets have piled up golds at these World Championships. The Soviets won the women's team gold Wednesday night, and their star performer, Svetlana & 2/3 Boguinskaia, is favored to win the women's all-around gold tonight.
The only gymnasts to even share the spotlight with the Soviets have been the U.S. women. Wednesday, the U.S. women won a silver for their first-ever team medal. Kim Zmeskal, who scored a perfect 10 on her final vault, will aim for another medal tonight in the all-around.
But the world is far from matching the Soviets in depth and talent.
"We have eight men who could have been world champion," said Soviet coach Leonid Arkaev.
Reigning world champion Igor Korobchinsky of the Soviet Union didn't advance to the all-around final. He got his feet tangled on the pommel horse and was fourth during the team optionals. Unfortunately for Korobchinsky, the Soviets swept the top three places, filling the country's quota for the all-around.
It was no surprise that the Soviets could afford to compete without a world champion. A Soviet has won the men's all-around in 11 of the past 13 biannual World Championships.
The surprise was that Misutin popped to the top in the event that tests a gymnasts' skills on floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar.
"It helped me that the attention was on all the others," he said. "I could quietly compete and do what I do best. You have to focus. You have to concentrate. You have to be technically clean."
Misutin was marvelous in floor exercise and high bar, recording scores of 9.900. He clinched the title with a 9.775 on vault.
"I'm very happy," he said. "But I'd like to go home. I miss my family very, very much."