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Alina Kabaeva

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Country Represented: Russia
100 Greatest Gymnast Rank: 0
Rank Points: 0

2004 Athens Olympics (Gold)

2003 World Championships - Budapest, Hungary

2000 Sydney Olympics (Bronze)

1999 World Championships - Osaka, Japan

Kabayeva, the daughter of Tatar father and Russian mother, was born in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, in the Soviet Union.[1] She started rhythmic gymnastics there in 1987 at an age of 4. Her first coach was A. Malkina. Her father was a professional football (soccer) player and the family was constantly following him to different places in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. At first, many coaches did not like Alina because they considered her "too heavy" and "ugly" to be a rhythmic gymnast, none of them seemed to consider her a rhythmic gymnast of any particular talent. In her young teens she moved to Russia, where her mother took her to the Russian head coach Irina Viner, who liked her from the start.

"I could not believe my eyes, when I first saw her. The girl has the rare combination of two qualities crucial in Rhythmic Gymnastics - flexibility and agility." Irina Viner[3]

She stayed with Viner and from then on began claiming title after title. She made her international debut in 1996. In 1998 the 15 year old Kabayeva won the European Championships in Portugal, where her victory was considered by many to be completely "out of the blue". At the time she was the youngest member of the Russian squad, competing alongside internationally recognized teammates, like Amina Zaripova. In 1999 Kabaeva became European Champion for the second consecutive time and won the World title in Osaka, Japan. She went on to win a total of 5 all-around titles at the European Championships and added another World title in 2003 in Budapest, Hungary.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kabayeva was expected to claim gold in all-around, but, due to an error in an otherwise exceptional performance -- she dropped her hoop and ran to retrieve it outside the competition area - took home the bronze with the final score of 39.466 (Rope 9.925, Hoop 9.641, Ball 9.950, Ribbon 9.950).

In 2001 at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia, she won the gold for the Ball, Clubs and Rope, and silver in the Individual All-Around and Hoop. However, Kabayeva and her teammate Irina Tchachina tested positive to a banned diuretic (furosemide) and were stripped of their medals.

Irina Viner, the Russian head coach, who also served as the Vice President of the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee, said her gymnasts had been taking a food supplement called "Hyper" which contained mild diuretics, which, according to Viner, the gymnasts were taking for pre-menstrual syndrome. When the supply ran out shortly before the Goodwill Games, the team physiotherapist restocked at a local pharmacy. According to Viner, the supplement sold there was fake and contained furosemide. The commission requested the Goodwill Games organizing committee to nullify Kabayeva and Tchachina's results. The FIG also nullified their results from the World Championships in Madrid, causing Ukraine's Tamara Yerofeeva to be declared the 2001 World Champion.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics Kabayeva took home the gold medal in the individual all-around for rhythmic gymnastics with a score of 108.400 (Hoop 26.800, Ball 27.350, Clubs 27.150, Ribbon 27.100), the silver medal went to her teammate Irina Tchachina.[4]

In October 2004 Kabayeva announced her retirement from the sport.[5] However, in June 2005, the Russian head coach Irina Viner announced a possible comeback.[6] Kabayeva resumed her sport career at an Italy-Russia friendly competition in Genoa, on 10 September 2005.[7] On March 5, 2006, She won the Gazprom Moscow Grand Prix, with fellow Russians Vera Sessina and Olga Kapranova taking the second and third places.[8]

Since 2005 Kabayeva has been a member of the Public Chamber of Russia.

She also appeared briefly in the 2001 Japanese movie Red Shadow, performing her gymnastic routine.[9]

Russian rap group Igra Slov (Play on Words) made a song and music video featuring her in 2005.[10]

Since 2007, Kabayeva has been a member of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, representing the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

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