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A Charitable Act for Oksana Omelianchik: Japanese Fans Who Did Much More Than Smiling for her Birdie Routine

Putting on a Brave Face (1988):  Despite personal tragedies, Oksana  continued  to compete until 1989. (Photo  @    Pamela No...

Putting on a Brave Face (1988): 
Despite personal tragedies, Oksana 
continued to compete until 1989.
(Photo  Pamela Notley Photography)

We all love Oksana Omelianchik for her adorable smile, but little did we know that behind the seemingly always-smiling face, tragedy struck her in 1986. Fortunately, her loving fans from Japan paid tribute to her with in the most generous way.

In the year of 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster broke the hearts of many families in Ukraine. Oksana was no exception. Her brother Dmitri (a.k.a. "Dima"), then a first grader, became visually impaired as a consequence. For six and a half years the powerless family looked for help, only to end up in despair. Oksana's mother decided to write to International Magazine corespondent Hiroshi Tsunoda, who made the incident known in Japan. A country well-known for its love of gymnastics and its sympathetic people, donations were made quickly to bring Dima to Japan for medical examination. A month-long medical consultations and discussions were taken place, yet it turned out that limited could be done.

Though this might not be the most desirable medical outcome for the Dima, it was a comfort for the family to know that Oksana was well adored and loved by people across the world. If it had not been the generosity of the Japanese fans, Dima might not be able to receive such high level of medical assistance. Indeed, love can travel very far, and lay the foundation for something more meaningful and inspiring. 

Dima then went on to study in a regular secondary school. Oksana, now a mother to two adult children, is still hugely involved in gymnastics as an international judge. A three time World Champion in the 1985 Montreal World Championships, her Birdie routine remains as one of the most cherished masterpieces in Women's Artistic Gymnastics. 

Click HERE to read Oksana's mother's recount of the tragedy.

Written by Valerie Theodora Ko

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