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Irina Rodnina - Three Time Olympic Pair Figure Skating Champion


Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaytsev

Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaytsev

Photo by Steve Powell - Getty Images

Ice Skating Legend Irina Rodnina:

Irina Rodnina is the only pair skater who has won ten successive world figure skating titles and three successive Olympic figure skating gold medals. In addition, Rodnina won eleven European figure skating pairs championships. She is considered the most successful pair skater in history.

Date of Birth:

September 12, 1949

Place of Birth:

Moscow, Russia

Early Skating Days:

Irina Rodnina began ice skating in 1954. She trained at Children and Youth Sports School in Moscow.

International Career:

Rodnina represented the Soviet Union throughout her competitive figure skating career.

Two Different Pair Skating Partners - Ulanov and Zaitsev:

Alexei Ulanov won the 1972 Winter Olympics with Irina Rodnina. At that Olympics it was made public that Ulanov had fallen in love with another pair skater, Lyudmila Smirnova. Rodnina was heartbroken by that romance and wanted another partner.

In April of 1972, Rodnina's pair skating coach, Stanislav Zhuk, approached Aleksandr Zaitsev. A nationwide search for a new partner for Irina Rodnina took place and it is said that Aleksandr was taken from "out of nowhere" and was made into a figure skating champion.

Rodnina and Zaitsev won both the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

Won Almost Every Competition She Entered:

Rodnina and Ulanov skated together from 1968 to 1972. They won four world figure skating championships and four European figure skating championships. The culmination of their time together was their 1972 Olympics Gold Medal.

Rodnina and Zaitsev won every competition they entered. They won gold at the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics and they won six world figure skating championships (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978) and seven European (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980) figure skating titles.


Aleksandr Zaitsev married and then divorced Irina Rodnina. The couple was married in 1975; together they had one son, Sasha Jr., who was born in 1979. Rodnina and Zaitsev did not compete at the 1979 World Figure Skating Championships the year Sasha was born. That year, U.S. pair skating champions, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, won the world title.

Irina Rodnina Trivia:

At the 1973 world figure skating championships, Rodnina and Zaitsev's music stopped in the middle of their program. They completed the program without music. The crowd gave them a standing ovation. They won the event.

Professional Career:

Irina Rodnina became a figure skating coach. She has coached many elite figure skaters. She taught at the University of Moscow, and in the United States.

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