Sport in Russia

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The 6th International Maxi-Marathon of Nuclear Workers on Moscow's central Vasilyevsky Spusk Square, 2001. Participants are workers from 14 countries having nuclear power plants in their territories. Events include a three legged race.

Russia is one of the most successful countries at a number of sports and continuously finishing in the top rankings at the Olympic Games. Russia is the successor of (and the Russian SFSR was the largest part of) the Soviet Union (USSR) and during the Soviet era, the Soviet team placed first in the total number of medals won at 14 of its 18 appearances; with these performances, the USSR was the dominant Olympic power of its era.

Since the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952 and continuing today, Soviet and later Russian athletes never went below third place in the world (never below second until the most recent Olympics), in number and gold medals collected at the Summer Olympics. Russia has finished in the top five at every Paralympic Winter Games since 1994, and is continuously climbing the rankings at the Paralympic Summer Games.

Football is the most popular sport in Russia. Among the most played sports in Russia, beyond football there are basketball, ice hockey, bandy. Other sports widely played in Russia include rugby league, handball, weightlifting, gymnastics, figure skating, biathlon, boxing, wrestling, martial arts, volleyball, rugby union, and skiing.


Russia National team a the Eurobasket 2011

The Soviet Union was traditionally very strong in basketball, winning various Olympic tournaments, World Championships and Eurobasket; its legal successor the Russian national basketball team is considered as a worldwide basketball force. In 2007, Russia defeated world champions Spain to win EuroBasket 2007. Russian basketball clubs such as PBC CSKA Moscow (2006 and 2008 Euroleague Champions) have had great success in European competitions such as the Euroleague and the ULEB Cup. At the moment there are three Russian players in the NBA: Andrei Kirilenko of the Philadelphia 76ers, Alexey Shved of the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov and Sergey Karasev of the Brooklyn Nets.


Maxim Mikhaylov with Russian volleyball team at the 2011 FIVB World League Final

Volleyball excellence can be traced back since Soviet times, Russia has continued to be a major country in volleyball, only second to Brazil.

The Russia men's national volleyball team is the champion of the (2011 Volleyball World Cup and ranks number 2 in the FIVB World Rankings and the 2012 London Olympics champion.

Record for achievements of the Russian men's volleyball team:

  • 1 Olympic gold medal (2012 London), 1 silver medal (2000 Sydney) and 2 bronze medals (2004 and 2008)
  • 1 silver medal at the 2002 FIVB World Championships.
  • 2 World Cup gold medals (1999 and 2011)
  • 3 FIVB World League gold medals (2002, 2011, 2013),5 silver medals (1993, 1998, 2000, 2007, 2010), 6 bronze medals (1997, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2009)

The Russian women's national volleyball team is ranked number 6 in the FIVB World Rankings.

Record for achievements of the Russian women's volleyball team:

The Russian volleyball junior team continue to excel, in the FIVB men ranking for junior and youth, Russia is placed first the men. Some of Russia's well known players include Maxim Mikhaylov, Yekaterina Gamova, Aleksandr Volkov, Ruslan Olikhver, Aleksey Verbov, Yevgeniya Artamonova, Yury Berezhko, Sergey Tetyukhin, Dmitriy Muserskiy, Sergey Grankin, Aleksey Kuleshov, Nikolay Apalikov.

Ice hockey[edit]

President Dmitry Medvedev meets with the 2008 national hockey team

The Russian men's national ice hockey team is the national ice hockey team of Russia and are controlled by the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia. They are currently rated third in IIHF World Rankings. The team has been competing internationally since 1993 and follows a long tradition of Soviet teams mostly composed of Russian players. The Russian team replaced the Unified Team of the 1992 Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth of Independent States team of the 1992 World Championships.

The Russian team has not been as dominant as the Soviet team, winning the gold in the World Championships 5 times in 23 years, but it remains one of the top teams in the world. 2002 saw the start of the re-emergence of the Russian Team in the international arena with improved results. Russia finished fourth at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Russia has a total of 77,702 players, about 0.05% of its population. As of March 2014, their head coach is Oleg Znarok.

The top three nominees for the 2009 Hart Memorial Trophy (the most valuable player award in the National Hockey League) all play for the Russian team: Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Evgeni Malkin.

Russia's ice hockey team has a long history of tradition and success, and today about 30 Russians play in the NHL. During the Soviet era, hockey was one of the dominant sports, and members of the national team were given the finest apartments and cars.

The 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviets proved that Russia produced some of the finest players in the world, losing the 8 game series 4-3-1.


From 1956 to 1988 the Soviet Union national hockey team won seven gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal in nine appearances. The Unified team at the 1992 Olympics also won the gold medal.

  • 1994 - Finished in 4th place
  • 1998 - Won silver medal
  • 2002 - Won bronze medal
  • 2006 - Finished in 4th place

World championships[edit]

Year Location Result
1992 Prague / Bratislava,  Czechoslovakia 5th place
1993 Dortmund / Munich,  Germany Gold
1994 Bolzano / Canazei / Milan,  Italy 5th place
1995 Stockholm / Gävle,  Sweden 5th place
1996 Vienna,  Austria 4th place
1997 Helsinki / Turku / Tampere,  Finland 4th place
1998 Zurich / Basel,  Switzerland 5th place
1999 Oslo / Lillehammer / Hamar,  Norway 5th place
2000 Saint Petersburg,  Russia 11th place
2001 Cologne / Hanover / Nuremberg,  Germany 6th place
2002 Gothenburg / Karlstad / Jönköping,  Sweden Silver
2003 Helsinki / Tampere / Turku,  Finland 7th place
2004 Prague / Ostrava,  Czech Republic 10th place
2005 Innsbruck / Vienna,  Austria Bronze
2006 Riga,  Latvia 5th place
2007 Moscow / Mytishchi,  Russia Bronze
2008 Quebec City / Halifax,  Canada Gold
2009 Bern / Kloten,  Switzerland Gold
2010 Cologne / Mannheim / Gelsenkirchen,  Germany Silver
2011 Bratislava / Kosice,  Slovakia 4th place
2012 Helsinki,  Finland / Stockholm,  Sweden Gold
2013 Stockholm,  Sweden / Helsinki,  Finland 6th place
2014 Minsk,  Belarus Gold

In recent years, starting in 2007, the Russian team has put a strong team on the ice for the World Championships. They had a record of 8-1-0 in the 2007 tournament, 9-0-0 in the 2008 tournament, 9-0-0 in 2009, 8-1-0 in 2010, and best of all 10-0-0 in 2012.


One traditionally popular sport is bandy (informally called "Russian hockey"). It's considered a national sport,[1] and is one of the biggest spectator sports.[2] The modern rules were written in England, but the Russians claim to be the inventors of the game. The Soviet Union won all the Bandy World Championships from the start 1957 until 1979. Russia is almost always one of the two best and has never missed out on a medal. The attendance has decreased in the last few years. It's still one of the biggest spectator sports though. After 10 rounds of the 2011-2012 Russian Bandy League the average attendance was 3,887.[3] The club with biggest public support is HC Kuzbass from Kemerovo. About 26,000 watched the opening game against Dynamo Moscow. Dynamo Kazan is the current champion of the national league after Dynamo Moscow having won 2006-2010. Bandy is the only sport to enjoy the patronage of the Russian Orthodox Church since they're very interested in strengthening their national traditions.[4]

Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team's goal. The rules of the game have many similarities to those of association football. The game is played on a rectangle of ice, the same size as a football field. Each team has eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper. A standard bandy match consists of two halves of 45 minutes each. The offside rule is also similar to that observed in football.

Figure skating[edit]

Russian figure skating team at the 2014 Winter Olympics

Figure skating is another popular sport; in the 1960s the Soviet Union rose to become a dominant power in figure skating, especially in pairs skating and ice dancing. At every Winter Olympics from 1964 through 2006, a Soviet or Russian pair won gold, often considered the longest winning streak in modern sports history. The streak ended in 2010 when a Chinese pair won gold in 2010 Winter Olympics, a Russian pair returned to winning gold in pairs at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia still produced multiple Olympic and World Champions in figure skating notably Alexei Urmanov, Ilia Kulik, Alexei Yagudin, Evgeni Plushenko, Maria Butyrskaya, Irina Slutskaya, Adelina Sotnikova, Yulia Lipnitskaya, Maya Usova / Alexander Zhulin, Oksana Grishuk / Evgeni Platov, Anjelika Krylova / Oleg Ovsyannikov, Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov, Ekaterina Gordeeva / Sergei Grinkov, Natalia Mishkutenok / Artur Dmitriev, Tatiana Totmianina / Maxim Marinin, Elena Berezhnaya / Anton Sikhuralidze, Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov, Ksenia Stolbova / Fedor Klimov, Elena Ilinykh / Nikita Katsalapov.

The Russian Figure Skating Championships are a figure skating national championship held annually to determine the national champions of Russia. Skaters compete at the senior level in the disciplines of men's singles, women's singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. The first Russian national competition was held on March 5, 1878 in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire. The winner was V. I. Sreznevski. From 1897–present, official Russian national championships in figure skating were held. The first national champion of Russia in figure skating was Alexandr Nikitich Panshin, who won the Russian nationals from 1897 to 1900.

Between 1924 and 1990 Russian national championships in figure skating were not held. During this time, Russian skaters competed at the Soviet Figure Skating Championships.

Other winter sports[edit]

Other winter sports the Soviets or Russia are dominant in are cross-country skiing (especially women's), bobsleigh, biathlon, speed skating, skeleton and luge.


Main article: Football in Russia
Russian football fans with a gigantic "Go Russia!" banner, featuring the Russian Bear on the background of the Russian flag

Australian Rules Football[edit]

Australian rules football was introduced to Russia in 2011. Early success for Russian Australian Rules Football came in the form of one of the Locomotive Australian Rules Football Club's junior team of 1987 which was sent to England to compete in a series of matches. Despite being expected to lose every game to their far more experienced opponents, the youngsters won all five of their matches. This proved that Russia could take to Australian Football as well as any other country.

Taturyan's work allowed Australian Football to become established; more importantly it was established before the onset of the chaos that accompanied the dissolution of the USSR, which would have made it nearly impossible to establish a new sport in Russia after 1991. Luckily by that time the Russian Australian Football League (RAFL) had already been established.


Two teams each year take part in the British Challenge Cup, along with four teams from France including Les Catalans, although the challenge cup is not considered to be a 'European Cup', more a domestic competition in the UK that invites these teams into the early rounds.

Rugby union[edit]

Main article: Rugby union in Russia

Rugby union is a growing sport in Russia. Russia is ranked 17th worldwide by the International Rugby Board (IRB),[3] with over one hundred clubs and close to 20,000 players nationally.[4]

Russian domestic rugby went professional in 2005 with the launch of the Professional Rugby League. After a post-Soviet lull, Russian players are again signing with major clubs in England and France.

Krasnoyarsk, a large Siberian city, has traditionally been the stronghold of Russian rugby union. Domestic matches are covered in the local media, and the intra-city derby match between sides Krasny Yar and Enisei-STM can attract large crowds.

Rugby football in the Russian Empire pre-dated the Russian Revolution by a number of years, but it was only played sporadically. It appears to have been the first (non-indigenous) football code to be played in Russia, around a decade before the introduction of association football.[5] Mr Hopper, a Scotsman, who worked in Moscow arranged a match in the 1880s; the first football match was in 1892.[5] In 1886, however, the Russian police clamped down on rugby because they considered it "brutal, and liable to incite demonstrations and riots"[5] Condemnation by the tsar's police probably deterred many people from playing, and records of rugby over the next thirty years are sparse.

Russia qualified and competed in the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand as Europe 2 after finishing second in the 2008-10 ENC. This was the team's debut in the tournament, where they faced Australia, Ireland, Italy and the United States in Group C of the tournament. Being the second-lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Russia performed comparatively well in their opening match, running the USA close in an encounter which was lost 6-13. This was followed by comprehensive losses against Italy (53-17), Ireland (62-12) and Australia (68-22).

Rugby league[edit]

Rugby league is a growing sport in Russia. Russia is ranked 15th worldwide by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF),[6] with over 2,000 participants nationwide.[7]

Russian domestic rugby league is played at youth, student and adult levels, but is purely amateur.


Maria Sharapova is Russia's most successful tennis athlete. She is also the highest earning female athlete.

Since the end of the Soviet era, tennis has grown in popularity and Russia has produced a number of famous tennis players. In recent years, the amount of top Russian women players has been considerable, with both Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina reaching number one in the WTA rankings. Other Russian women to achieve international success include Anna Chakvetadze, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Myskina, Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva and Anna Kournikova. The Russian Federation has won the Fed Cup 4 times, in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Russia swept the women's tennis podium with Elena Dementieva winning the gold, Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva the silver and bronze, respectively. As of October 16, 2009, two Russian women were ranked in the WTA tour's top 10; with an additional two in the Top 20.

Russia also boasts two former number 1 men's players—Safina's older brother Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Other Russian men that have made the top 50 include Nikolay Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Igor Kunitsyn, and Mikhail Youzhny. The Russian men won the Davis Cup in 2002 and 2006. Russia's upcoming new talents will help continue the sport, Andrey Rublev and Sofya Zhuk.


Rhythmic Gymnastics[edit]

Children training in a Russian Rhythmic Gymnastic Club

Rhythmic gymnastics is considered one of the most popular sports in Russia. In addition, it is considered in general that Russia has the best rhythmic gymnasts. Evgenia Kanaeva, three-time all around world champion and first and only back to back gold medallist at the olympic games, Yulia Barsukova, Irina Tchachina, Galina Beloglazova, Irina Devina, Tatiana Druchinina, Elena Karpuchina, Tatiana Kravtchenko, Galima Shugurova, Oxana Kostina, Alina Kabaeva, Natalia Lipkovskaya, Daria Dmitrieva, Amina Zaripova, Daria Kondakova, Laysan Utiasheva, Zarina Gizikova, Daria Shkurikhina, Vera Sessina, Margarita Mamun, Yelena Posevina, Anastasia Maksimova, Olga Ilina, Anna Gavrilenko, Karolina Sevastyanova, Anastasia Bliznyuk, Alina Makarenko, Ksenia Dudkina, Anastasia Nazarenko, Uliana Donskova, Yanina Batyrchina, Maria Titova, Aleksandra Soldatova, Yana Kudryavtseva, Daria Svatkovskaya, Dina Averina, Arina Averina, Irina Annenkova, Natalia Safonova, Yulia Bravikova, Daria Dubova, Victoria Ilina, Daria Anenkova and Sofya Skomorokh are amongst Russia' top rhythmic gymnasts. There are many rhythmic gymnastics clubs in Russia and the most famous one is the Gazprom School which Irina Viner teaches rhythmic gymnasts in Novogorsk, Moscow, where the Russian National team is also based.

Artistic gymnastics[edit]

Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet gymnasts dominated both men's and women's gymnastics commencing with the introduction of the full women's program into the Olympics and the overall increased standardization of the Olympic Gymnastics competition format which happened in 1952. From 1952 to 1992 inclusive, the Soviet women's squad won almost every single team title in World Championship competition and at the Summer Olympics: the only four exceptions were the 1984 Olympics, which they did not attend, and the 1966, 1979 and 1987 World Championships. Some of the famous Soviet gymnasts were from the Russian SFSR, or of Russian origin born in the former SSR.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, they competed together as one nation for the last time at the 1992 Summer Olympics as a "Unified Team" winning the gold. though not as dominant as the Soviet Union and with the emergence of new countries excelling in gymnastics and having a gymnast apparatus specialist, Russia has maintained the tradition of gymnastics excellence, medalling at every Worlds and Olympic competition in both MAG and WAG disciplines, except in the 2008 Olympics, where the Russian women team did not win any medals. Notable Russian gymnasts include: Svetlana Khorkina, Alexei Nemov, Nikolai Andrianov, Alexander Dityatin, Larissa Latynina, Yelena Shushunova, Elena Zamolodchikova, Natalia Yurchenko, Elena Mukhina, Olga Mostepanova, Yuri Titov, Yekaterina Lobaznyuk, Yelena Produnova, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Ludmilla Tourischeva, Anastasia Grishina, Aleksandr Balandin, Maria Paseka, Nikolai Kuksenkov, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Aliya Mustafina, Denis Ablyazin, Emin Garibov, Viktoria Komova, David Belyavskiy, Nikita Nagornyy, Maria Kharenkova and Seda Tutkhalyan.


Swimming is mostly an elite sport for most Russians, however before the dissolution of the USSR, Swimming was an institutionalized and recreational sport and excelled in the Olympic Games. Russia has not achieved the same success as that of the Soviet Union nevertheless there has still been a few notable Russian swimmers that excelled, Alexander Popov, a four-time Olympic gold medalist is regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time, and the only male swimmer in history to win four individual Olympic gold medals in freestyle events. Since at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Russia's new elite swimmers have shown improved results led by Vladimir Morozov, Yulia Efimova, Danila Izotov, Anastasia Zuyeva, Anton Chupkov, Evgeny Rylov, Rozaliya Nasretdinova and Aleksandr Sadovnikov.


Diving is also a sport in Russia with a long soviet tradition, notable Russian divers include: Dmitri Sautin, Vera Ilyina, Yuliya Pakhalina, Igor Lukashin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Viktor Minibaev and Ilya Zakharov.

Synchronized Swimming[edit]

Since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Russia has dominated synchronized swimming at the Olympic Games and World Championships notable Olympic champions include Anastasia Davydova, Anastasia Ermakova, Natalia Ishchenko, Svetlana Romashina.


Russian Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva

Russia has maintained strong results particularly in High jump, Long jump, track athletics, Hurdling, Pole vault, racewalking, Hammer throw, Triple jump, Javelin throw, Heptathlon. Some well known Russian athletes include Yelena Isinbayeva, Anna Chicherova, Ivan Ukhov, Tatyana Lysenko, Yuliya Zaripova, Natalya Antyukh, Andrey Silnov, Ekaterina Koneva, Sergey Shubenkov, Tatyana Chernova, Mariya Kuchina, Darya Klishina, Aleksandr Menkov, Aleksey Fyodorov, Elena Lashmanova, Lyukman Adams.


The Russian Orienteering Federation (Russian: Федерация Спортивного Ориентирования (ФСО)) is the Russian national organisation of orienteering. It is a full member of the International Orienteering Federation.[8]


Russia is a Boxing country Powerhouse with many World title holders, Olympic champions and legends of the sport.


Martial arts[edit]

Russia's greatest wrestler Alexander Karelin

Russia has become a key player in sport of Judo. The popularity has increased under President Vladimir Putin, and with Russia producing multiple Olympic and World champions.


The Soviet Union was the most successful country in the history of wrestling, Russia has continued the tradition and has produced multiple Olympic and World champions. Wrestling is the most accessible and played out sport for boys and young adults in Russia.


Chess is a favorite pastime, and a sport that has been dominated by Russians in the post-war (1945-) era. The winner of the 1948 World Chess Championship, Russian Mikhail Botvinnik, started an era of Soviet dominance in the chess world. Until the end of the Soviet Union, there was only one non-Soviet champion.

Today, 24 of the world's top 100 chess players are Russian.[9]


Vitaly Petrov became Russia's first Formula One driver in 2010. So far he has driven in F1 for three seasons with the Renault and Caterham F1 teams. He scored the best result of his career when he finished third at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix. Daniil Kvyat made his debut in F1 in 2014. A Russian Grand Prix joined the calendar for the 2014 Formula One season, held at the Sochi Autodrom.

Timur Timerzyanov has enjoyed success in rallycross, winning the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 2012 and 2013.

Russian car manufacturer Lada (known domestically as AvtoVAZ) has competed in the World Touring Car Championship, making their debut in 2008 with Russian Bears Motorsport entering Lada 110s. Lada provided factory support in 2009, with the team running three cars and upgrading to the Lada Priora during the season. The team's best performances were a pair of sixth places by James Thompson at the Race of Italy. Lada subsequently withdrew from the championship, but they returned in 2012, entering a Lada Granta WTCC driven by Thompson at a couple of race meetings. Subsequently they announced plans to contest a full season in 2013. The team ran two cars in 2013, with a best result of a fifth place for Thompson in the Race of Russia, and expanded to a three car squad for 2014. Former World Touring Car Champion Robert Huff gave Lada their first WTCC win at the 2014 Beijing round.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Russian bandy players blessed for victory at world championship in Kazan". Tatar-Inform. 2011-01-21. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  2. ^ Boris Skrynnik, "Bandy - the third most visited gaming sport in Russia"
  3. ^ Official IRB Rankings
  4. ^ Official Russia Playing Numbers
  5. ^ a b c Riordan, James Sport in Soviet Society — development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1977) p22
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ "IOF Member Federations". International Orienteering Federation. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Mills, Peter (5 October 2014). "Beijing Goldenport WTCC: Rob Huff gives Lada maiden WTCC win". Retrieved 16 October 2014.