March 21, 2011 / 6:09 PM / 8 years ago

Olympics-Gymnastics great Andrianov dies after long illness

MOSCOW, March 21 (Reuters) - Nikolai Andrianov, the most decorated male gymnast of all time, died on Monday after a long illness, the Russian gymnastics federation said. He was 58.

“We’ve received such tragic news that Nikolai had passed away this afternoon,” Russia’s national team coach Alexander Alexandrov told Reuters. “He had been ill for a long time.”

Andrianov was suffering from the degenerative neurological disorder multiple system atrophy and was unable to move his arms or legs or talk. He died in his home town of Vladimir.

Andrianov held the record for men for most Olympic medals at 15, including seven golds, until American swimmer Michael Phelps surpassed him at the 2008 Beijing Games.

He is third on the all-time list of athletes with the most Olympic medals behind fellow gymnast Larisa Latynina (18) and Phelps (16).

The Russian won four golds, including the coveted all-around title, two silvers and a bronze at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, then added two more golds, two silvers and a bronze four years later on home soil in Moscow. He also had a gold, silver and bronze from the 1972 Munich Games.

Andrianov retired shortly after the 1980 Moscow Olympics and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Hall of Fame in 2001.

He is survived by his wife, two-time Olympic gymnastics champion Lyubov Burda and two sons, Vladimir and Sergei.

(Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov; editing by Justin Palmer)

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