Ma Yanhong - China
When China's Ma Yanhong performed on uneven bars at the 1979 World Championships in Fort Worth, she revealed a stunning combination of immaculate technique and unique difficulty that still inspires awe.
Ma, who tied for the gold medal on uneven bars in Forth Worth, helped usher in the Chinese gymnastics revolution that continues today.
Ma's shared victory in Fort Worth made her the first Chinese gymnast (female or male) to win a world title. She stayed at or near the top on her specialty through the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Ma was second on uneven bars at the 1981 Worlds in Moscow, where she impressively placed fourth all-around behind three Soviet gymnasts.
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Ma became the first Chinese female gymnast to win an Olympic title, when she tied Julianne McNamara for the gold medal on uneven bars. Both gymnasts scored a perfect 10.0 in the final. Ma also placed sixth all-around; made the finals on balance beam and floor exercise; and helped the Chinese women win their first Olympic team medal, a bronze.
Although the event has changed considerably since Ma's competition era, her perfect form remains inimitable. Her namesake dismount, "the Ma" (hip circle, hecht to full-twisting back somersault) is still rated as an element of the highest difficulty level.
Ma's courage and creativity have not been limited to gymnastics, however. After coaching in England and the U.S. she returned to her native Beijing and launched several business ventures.
Among other enterprises, she has worked as a sports promoter, restaurateur and television commentator. Ma frequently visits the U.S., where her daughter, Suzanne, attends university.
In 2008 Ma became the first Chinese women inductee of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.