On his odyssey from Almaty, Kazakhstan (formerly part of the Soviet Union) to Planet Gymanstics in Mobile, Vladimir Novikov seized an Olympic gold medal. He’s a former coach of the men’s gymnastics team at Penn State University. And, in his spare time, he has earned a black belt in tae kwon do. Novikov certainly has many amazing stories to tell, and he now calls the Port City home.
What is your background in gymnastics?
I started when I was 6. When I was 14, I moved to Moscow on my own to be part of the Soviet National Team. I won two world gold medals and an Olympic gold medal. Just before the break up of the USSR, I came to America to coach and have been coaching ever since. My first job was with U.S. Olympic gold medalist Tim Daggett. Since 1995, I have also been working with the U.S.A. National Team and Bela Karolyi.
Tell us about your experience at the Olympics.
When I competed in the 1988 Olympics, I was a nervous and excited 18-year-old. I couldn’t believe how friendly, or how tall, some of the athletes were. The Cold War was nearing an end, but we still traveled with tight security. Our coach did not name the team until right before the day of the event, and I was lucky to be called. My favorite memory is standing on the podium after winning the gold. Words can’t describe that experience.
How did you end up running a gym in Mobile?
In 1997, I was working in New York when my now-partner, Steve Ramsay, flew up to sell me on the idea of opening the best gym in this region. We have been working together ever since, and I have been fortunate to coach many state, regional and national champions. Alabama is a very friendly state, and I really enjoy the company of the coaches. Last year, I was proud to be named Alabama State Coach of the Year.
What is your philosophy for coaching gymnastics?
I take a holistic approach to coaching. My philosophy is “strong body, strong mind.” We have a happy, family-oriented atmosphere. My students’ schoolwork, ethics and character are just as important as their gymnastics scores. Our mission at Planet Gymnastics is “to make a difference in the life of a child, ” and I really hope I do that.
What do you love about life in Mobile?
I grew up in a big city, so I was surprised at the laid-back atmosphere and friendly people. Mobile is a great place to bring up kids. My wife, Joanne, home schools our three daughters, and they have recess with the neighbors’ kids who do the same. I’m lucky to have such great neighbors. Mobile is a very tight-knit community, and I like that.
Christy Dobson Reid