Sport in Russia
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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.
Among the most played sports in Russia are basketball, ice hockey, bandy and football. Other sports widely played in Russia include team handball, weightlifting, gymnastics, boxing, wrestling, martial arts, volleyball, rugby union and skiing.
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 Brooklyn Nets, Alexey Shved of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov.
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 first 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 ice hockey at 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 three times in 18 years, but it remains one of the top teams in the world. Russia finished fourth at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Russia has a total of 77,702 players, about 0.05% of its population. As of August 2006, their head coach was Vyacheslav "Slava" Bykov.
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.
- 1994 - Finished in 4th place
- 1998 - Won silver medal
- 2002 - Won bronze medal
- 2006 - Finished in 4th place
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.
World championship records:
|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 / Košice, Slovakia||4th place|
|2012||Helsinki, Finland / Stockholm, Sweden||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, and is one of the biggest spectator sports. 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 between 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. 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.
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.
Other winter sports
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 Vancouver. Other winter sports the Soviets or Russia are dominant in are cross-country skiing (especially women's), bobsleigh, biathlon, speed skating, skeleton and luge.
Australian rules football was introduced to Russia in 2011.
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 Union Figure Skating Championships.
Australian Rules Football
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.
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. Mr Hopper, a Scotsman, who worked in Moscow arranged a match in the 1880s; the first football match was in 1892. In 1886, however, the Russian police clamped down on rugby because they considered it "brutal, and liable to incite demonstrations and riots" 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).
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. Russian men currently in the top 50 include Nikolay Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Igor Kunitsyn, and Mikhail Youzhny. The Russian men won the Davis Cup in 2002 and 2006.
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, Irina Tchachina, Galima Shugurova, Alina Kabaeva, Daria Dmitrieva, Yanina Batyrchina and Yulia Barsukova turned out to be 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 Moscow.
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.
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.
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. A Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to join the calendar for the 2014 Formula One season, to be held at the Sochi Olympic Park Circuit.
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.
- "Russian bandy players blessed for victory at world championship in Kazan". Tatar-Inform. 2011-01-21. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- Boris Skrynnik, "Bandy - the third most visited gaming sport in Russia"
- Official IRB Rankings
- Official Russia Playing Numbers
- Riordan, James Sport in Soviet Society — development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1977) p22
- "IOF Member Federations". International Orienteering Federation. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-06-20.