Top 7 Russian Athletes Throughout History

Russian athletes are always present at the Olympic Games and world championships. They're particularly good in athletics and gymnastics, although there are also representatives in other disciplines. Here are our top picks!
Top 7 Russian Athletes Throughout History

Last update: 28 November, 2019

Perfect in gymnastics and figure skating, with good marks in athletics and tennis, Russian athletes have always been present in the history of the Olympic Games and world championships. In today’s article, we’ll go over seven of the best Russian athletes throughout history. It’s time to get inspired!

Who are the best Russian athletes?

Since the Soviet Union existed, sports have been very important in the largest country in the world. Therefore, it’s understandable that there has always been a Soviet –and now Russian- representative in the top positions of many disciplines, especially at the Olympic Games. Next, we’ll tell you who the top Russian athletes in history are:

1. Yelena Isinbayeva

Born in 1982, Yelena has beaten the world pole vault record (female) 28 times. Her records have been 5.06 meters outdoors and 5.01 meters on the indoor track. Throughout her Olympic history, she won two gold medals (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) and a bronze (London 2012). This makes her one of the top Russian athletes in Olympic history!

In addition, she was champion in all international tournaments from 2004 to 2008. She retired in the Moscow world championships in 2013, with a mark of 4.89 meters and a gold medal as a farewell.

Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates a new high jump brand.

2. Andrei Kirilenko: one of the top Russian athletes

Born in the former USSR, this former 2.06-meter basketball player began his career at the Spartak in St. Petersburg.

Two years later he won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics representing Russia. In 2001 he was signed by the Utah Jazz of the NBA, a team where he would play for ten years. He was chosen once in the All-Star Game (2004) and once for the best defensive team in the NBA (2006). He retired in 2015 at the CSKA in Moscow.

Andrei Kirilenko, one of the best Russian athletes, playing in the NBA.

Image: Sporting News.

3. Maria Gorokhovskaya

This former Soviet gymnast was an Olympic champion in Helsinki 1952, where she won two gold medals (for teams and complete) and five for silver (equipment for teams, vault, asymmetric bars, bar and ground exercises).

The most impressive part of her feat was that by the time Maria won she was 31 years old … much older than her teammates and rivals!

Russian athlete Maria Gorokhovskaya competing in the Olympic Games.


4. Top Russian athletes: Evgeni Plushenko

This skater is another talent that deserves to be on the list of the best Russian athletes. Evgeni has been eight times national champion, seven times European, three times world, once Olympic (Turin 2006) and four in the Ice Prix Grand Prix. That’s an amazing feat for any athlete!

Yevgueni Plushenko, one of the top Russian athletes, competes in ice skating.

Image: RTVE.

5. Maria Sharapova

Perhaps she’s one of the most famous Russian athletes, and also the one with the most impressive record.

Sharapova was born in Siberia in 1987 and has won five Grand Slam tournaments: twice Roland Garros, once the Australian Open, a Wimbledon and a US Open. In addition, she ranked number 1 in the WTA ranking for 21 weeks in 2005.

As for her Olympic participation, she won the silver medal in London 2012 (she lost the final against Serena Williams).

Sharapova is also in the Silver Slam tennis group (for winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and a silver medal) and is one of the youngest to have won Wimbledon.

6. Andrei Arshavin

The Russians are not among the most prominent in soccer, but in our list of top Russian athletes, there’s one player worth mentioning.

Andrei Arshavin is a Leningrad-born offensive midfielder, who had a big role at Arsenal F.C. in England. He began his career in 2000 and retired in 2018. In those 18 years, he played 75 games with the Russian national team and scored 17 goals.

Andrei Arshavin prepares to enter football match.

7. Garry Kasparov

He’s known as ‘the great chess master’ and was born in the former Soviet Union. Kasparov was world chess champion for 15 consecutive years, from 1985 to 2000, making him one of the top Russian athletes in history. The chess master retired in 2005 and from that moment on he devoted himself completely to politics, opposing Vladimir Putin’s administration.

Finally, other Russian athletes that we can’t forget about are: Nina Romashkova (athletics), Lev Yashin (football), Vsevolod Bobrov (ice hockey), Vyacheslav Ivanov (rowing), Boris Shakhlin (artistic gymnastics), Yevguéniya Kanáyeva (gymnastics) rhythmic), Yelena demévent (tennis), Fiodor Yemeliánenko (mixed martial arts), Anna Chicherova (high jump), Valery Brumel (athletics), Lidia Skoblikova (speed skating) and Alexander Medved (wrestling).

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.