Sports In Russia
Combining the total medals of Soviet Union and Russia, the country is second among all nations by number of gold medals both at the Summer Olympics and at the Winter Olympics. Soviet and later Russian athletes have always been in the top three for the number of gold medals collected at the Summer Olympics. Soviet gymnasts, track-and-field athletes, weight lifters, wrestlers, boxers, fencers, shooters, cross country skiers, biathletes, speed skaters and figure skaters were consistently among the best in the world, along with Soviet basketball, handball, volleyball and ice hockey players. The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow while the 2014 Winter Olympics will be hosted in Sochi.
Although ice hockey was only introduced during the Soviet era, the national team managed to win gold at almost all the Olympics and World Championships they contested. Russian players Valery Kharlamov, Sergey Makarov, Vyacheslav Fetisov and Vladislav Tretiak hold four of six positions in the IIHF Team of the Century. Recently Russia won the 2008, 2009 and the 2012 IIHF World Championships, overtaking Canada as the world’s top ranked ice hockey team. Russia totally dominated the 2012 tournament, winning all of its ten matches—the first time any team had done so since the Soviet Union in 1989. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) was founded in 2008 as a successor to the Russian Superleague. It is seen as a rival to the National Hockey League (NHL) and is ranked the top hockey league in Europe as of 2009. Bandy, also known as Russian hockey, is another traditionally popular ice sport. The Soviet Union won all the Bandy World Championships between 1957–79.
Dmitry Medvedev with Russia men’s national ice hockey team
Along with ice hockey and basketball, association football is one of the most popular sports in modern Russia. The Soviet national team became the first ever European Champions by winning Euro 1960. In recent years, Russian football, which downgraded in 1990s, has experienced a revival. Russian clubs CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg won the UEFA Cup in 2005 and 2008 respectively. The Russian national football team reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008, losing only to the eventual champions Spain. Russia will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with 14 host cities located in the European part of the country and on the Urals. In 2007, the Russian national basketball team also won the European Basketball Championship. Russian basketball club PBC CSKA Moscow is one of the top teams in Europe, winning the Euroleague in 2006 and 2008.
Larisa Latynina, who currently holds a record for most Olympic medals won per person and most gold Olympic medals won by a woman, established the USSR as the dominant force in gymnastics for many years to come. Today, Russia is leading in rhythmic gymnastics with Alina Kabayeva, Irina Tschaschina and Yevgeniya Kanayeva. Russian synchronized swimming is the best in the world, with almost all gold medals at Olympics and World Championships having been swept by Russians in recent decades. Figure skating is another popular sport in Russia, especially pair skating and ice dancing. At every Winter Olympics from 1964 until 2006 a Soviet or Russian pair has won gold. Since the end of the Soviet era, tennis has grown in popularity and Russia has produced a number of famous players, including Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest paid female athlete. In martial arts, Russia produced the sport Sambo and many renown fighters, like Fedor Emelianenko. Chess is a widely popular pastime in Russia; from 1927, Russian grandmasters have held the world chess championship almost continuously.
Formula One is also becoming increasingly popular in Russia. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov is the only Russian Formula One driver to date. There have only ever been two Russian Grands Prix (in 1913 and 1914), but it is set to return for 2014, in a six-year deal.
For more information about sport in Russia, visit Wikipedia.