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We dusted off the skating archive to show you some of our sports greatest legends.
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Irina Rodnina is the only pair skater to win 10 successive World Championships (1969–78) and three successive Olympic gold medals (1972, 1976, 1980) making her the most successful pair skater in history. She initially competed with Alexei Ulanov and later teamed up with Alexander Zaitsev. She is the first pair skater to win the Olympic title with two different partners, followed only by Artur Dmitriev.
In her pre-school years, Irina Rodnina suffered from pneumonia eleven times. Deciding to enroll her in an activity, in 1954 her parents brought her to her first skating rink. By 1963, Rodnina had begun skating with her first partner Oleg Vlasov, coached by Sonia and Milan Valun. In 1964, her coach became Stanislav Zhuk, who paired her with Alexei Ulanov who began figure skating in 1954 and became a member of the USSR National Team in 1964.
They won four consecutive World and European titles. Rodnina / Ulanov won their first World title in 1969, ahead of Tamara Moskvina / Alexei Mishin. They won their next two World titles, 1970 and 1971, ahead of silver medalists Lyudmila Smirnova / Andrei Suraikin. However, Ulanov fell in love with Smirnova, and prior to the 1972 Olympics, the couple made the decision to skate together the following season. Rodnina / Ulanov went on to compete at the 1972 Olympics where they captured the gold.
They then prepared for their last competition together, the 1972 World Championships. While practicing together a day before the start of the competition, the pair had an accident on a lift and Rodnina ended up in hospital with a concussion and an intracranial hematoma. Despite the accident, they had a strong showing in the short program, receiving some . In the long program, Rodnina became faint and dizzy but it was enough for their fourth World title.
Ulanov continued his career with Smirnova, while Rodnina considered retirement.