Maria was born on July 19, 1961 in Leninsk-Kuznetsk.
Much of Masha's gymnastics career was spent training under Innokenty Mametyev and wife Galina's career. The two waited a long time to find a gymnast like Maria, "I looked around for a long time for a girl who could do everything that I thought should be done," Innokenty told the Russian press. He picked Masha from among 800 girls at a sport school in Leninsky-Kuznetsky, a town in Siberia.
The couple hurried Masha along in her training, recognizing that a spot on the 1976 Olympic team was a possibility. The hard work paid off, and Masha was named alternate to the team. Crowd support during podium training in Montreal for Masha was unbelievable, and she found herself in the competitive line up.
Not surprisingly, Masha speaks fondly of her Montreal Olympic experience, but cited her win at the 1977 Moscow News as her favourite competition, "Of course it was great to win the World Cup. But I remember the Moscow News Prize better. I felt there like it was the Olympics," she told the Russian press in 1978.
Maria ("Masha") Filatova played a central role in the success of Soviet gymnastics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, earning a spot on both the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games.
Indeed, Masha's post-Olympic wins were impressive. She won the 1977 and 1978 World Cups, 1977 Moscow News, 1977 and 1979 Riga Tournaments, 1977 Soviet Championships, and 1977 and 1979 Paris Grand Prix. Unfortunately, these accolades did not seem to be rewarded among those who decided the Soviet start-up. For example, in the 1981 World Championships she was made to go first on each apparatus. Luckily she beat the odds and made the AA final, but as she told Sovetski Sport "...if I had performed second, not first, on a single apparatus, I would have become the world champion. But they always put me first, as if they did not see how I worked. It still hurts unbearably!"
Masha retired from gymnastics shortly thereafter, briefly joining a circus. Towards the end of her career, Masha's gymnastics was unparalleled in grace and elegance.
From 1981 to 1991, Mary lived in Minsk, Belarus. While in the circus, Masha married Soviet power tumbler Alexander Kourbatov. In the mid-1980s their daughter, Alexandra ("Sasha" or "Shashenka") Kourbatova, was born. Shortly thereafter, Masha moved with her daughter to Leninsk, where she did some choreography for the local gymnasts (one of whom was Tatiana Ignatova).
In 1991 the family moved to Belfast, Ireland, where Masha began coaching gymnastics. In addition to coaching, Filatova choreographed a number of routines for the Irish gymnasts, including the floor routines of their 1994 Commonwealth Games team.
In 1997, twenty years after winning the coveted World Cup all around gold medal, Maria and her family - husband Alexander ('Sasha'), a former power tumbler, and daughter Alexandra, or 'Little Sasha' - moved to the USA.
Working first of all in Rochester at the Gymnastics Training Center, then at the Zenith Academy of Gymnastics, Maria and Alexander helped many gymnasts reach their personal potential as gymnasts. They have coached and trained State, Regional and National qualifiers and medallists, many of whom went on to compete at collegiate level on gymnastics scholarships. Maria's daughter, Alexandra became an all around State and Regional champion, as well as a seven time qualifier for USGA Nationals at level 10.
Then in 2010, Maria's dream was realised when Alexandra opened the Kourbatova family's own gymnasium in New York, named Kour Magic Gymnastics. Here, Maria continues to coach at State, Regional and National level. She is especially proud of the very strong college program at her gym: 'I have sent many of my gymnasts onto college on scholarship. These girls usually train sixteen hours a week. I have very talented girls in my gym today, and hope that some of them will go on to College and get College Scholarships for gymnastics.'
Maria's approach to gymnastics has remained fresh throughout her time in the sport. Gymnastics is not a 'job' to her, but her life; the gymnasium is her home, and she loves to get to know each of her gymnasts as an individual. Everything she does is instilled with her love for the sport and her girls.
She brings to the gym all of the important things she learned as a gymnast : skill, dedication and leadership. Some of her role models were her own coaches and choreographers: Moscow Dynamo's Elena Kapitanova choreographed Maria's cheeky 1976 Olympic floor routine (Maria says, 'I adore her; she was the best role model for me); Lilia Sokolova, who created the floor routine with which Maria won the all around World Cup title in Spain, 1977; her first coach, Tatiana Ivanova, and her personal coach throughout her competitive years, Galina Mametieva. 'I think every coach coaches differently', she said recently, 'You take everything that is good from each of them, and you learn all the time'.
Maria's philosophy is to help all the girls who come to her gym to love gymnastics so that they can benefit from its lifelong benefits: 'the skill they learn, confidence and strength'. Maria says that she can prepare any girl to become a gymnast if she works hard and loves the sport. Her role is to help the girls to reach their individual goals: 'the important thing is to make every girl happy. I can mould the gymnast by using her strengths and playing down her weaknesses'.
As a gymnast, Maria is still remembered today for her beautiful floor routines, having demonstrated many different styles throughout her career. At Kour Magic Gymnastics, Maria is proud to continue the Filatova-Kourbatova tradition of great choreography, perfectly suited to the individual gymnast. 'I loved classical routines, but every routine has to fit the gymnast's personality', she says, 'I am always finding the best music to fit my gymnasts. My daughter, Sasha, understands this and she does all the choreography for our gymnasts. I am so very proud of her.'
For the future? Maria, Alexander and little Sasha continue working to help their girls, but dream one day of opening an elite program. Maria's gym is a happy place that shines with Maria's determined yet friendly personality and the love she, her family and her gymnasts have for the sport she has dedicated her life to.
Here is what some of Maria's gymnasts' parents say about her:
'Maria is one of the most amazing women I know! She has not lost the cheeky gestures and the sparkle that she had as a young girl. And her work ethic (along with her husband Sasha's) is exemplary! But it is her heart and soul that shine through most to me. She loves gymnastics still and she instils that love to a new generation of young girls in the most caring and wonderful environment. She is one in a million and I am honored to know her.'
'Maria is now my daughter's coach and still has that same passion for the sport as she did back in the days she was competing. She gives the girls the encouragement to believe in themselves and always supports them at every level in every skill, being firm at times when needed and compassionate at the times when that is what is needed most! She is an amazing coach, a caring friend to the girls and a woman with a heart as big as the moon!'