Top 10 Soviet athletes of all time (PHOTOS + VIDEOS)

1. Vladislav Tretiak (Ice Hockey)

Tretyak is the legendary Soviet ice hockey player, who gained immense fame on both sides of the Iron Curtain, while playing for the Soviet national team as a goalkeeper.

Tretiak started training relatively late, at the age of 11 in 1963. However, by the early 1970s he had already achieved fame in the USSR playing for the legendary CSKA team and winning a medal of gold at the 1972 Winter Olympics as a member of the Soviet Union. National team.

Throughout his career, Tretiak achieved incredible fame, winning four Olympic medals and several world championships and cups. But, real international fame came to Tretyak after surprising fans across the Iron Curtain with his performance in the Summit Series in 1972, when the Soviet team played against the Canadians. Despite his early retirement from the Soviet national team (he was only 32) and the fact that he never played in the NHL, Tretyak is considered one of the greatest hockey players of the 20th century. by many sports experts in Russia and abroad.

2. Lev Yashin (Football)

This legendary Soviet goalkeeper revolutionized the game by rewriting the style of play for all goalkeepers in subsequent years. Before Yashin came into play, the usual practice of most goalkeepers was passive play in goal. Lev Yashin changed that forever with his active presence on the ground and his command of the defense. He introduced running to cope with hasty attacks, a practice that has long been accepted as the norm in the sport.

A gold medalist in the 1956 Olympic football tournament, Yashin saved more than 150 shots on goal throughout his professional career, making him the most trusted goalkeeper in football history. For his black uniform and innovative playstyle, he received nicknames “Black Panther”, “Black Spider” and “Black Octopus”.

3. Sergey Bubka (Pole vault)

This Soviet athlete made history as the first pole vaulter to cross 6.0 meters and 6.10 meters. Winning six consecutive IAAF World Championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1988, Bubka broke the men’s pole vault world record 35 times along the way.

Although Bubka’s record was shattered in 2020 by Swedish athlete Armand Duplantis, Bubka is a legend in the sport and is one of the few athletes to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Association of Canadian Federations. ‘Athletics. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bubka, of Ukrainian descent, became a citizen of the country.

4. Irina Rodnina (Figure skating)

The legendary Soviet athlete accidentally found himself in figure skating. As a child, Rodnina suffered from pneumonia eleven times during her preschool years. To avoid subsequent illnesses, her parents took her to an ice rink in Moscow, which was a fateful decision.

By the early 1970s, Rodnina had conquered the sport of figure skating, becoming the only athlete in the history of the sport to win ten successive world championships and three successive Olympic gold medals – in 1972, 1976 and 1980. After his Retired, Rodnina built a career in Russian politics by becoming a Member of the Russian Legislature in 2007.

5. Garry Kasparov (Chess)

Born in Azerbaijan to an Armenian mother and a Jewish father, Garry Kasparov – who once said he identified himself as a Russian – played under the Soviet flag, with Azerbaijan being part of the USSR until 1991.

At the age of 19, Kasparov was the second player in the world, behind another Soviet chess player, Anatoly Karpov. Their rivalry is a well-known feature of chess history. After finally defeating the reigning champion in 1985, Kasparov became the youngest undisputed world chess champion at 22. As of that moment, Kasparov was ranked the world’s top chess player for a record 255 months.

After retiring from the sport, Kasparov got involved in Russian politics with very critical views on the country’s leadership. He currently lives in New York.

6. Valeri Kharlamov (ice hockey)

Forward Valeri Kharlamov was a living legend to millions of Soviet hockey fans when he dominated the Soviet and international hockey world from the late 1960s until his untimely death in 1981 at the age of 33. years only.

Despite his relatively small complexion, Kharlamov dominated the pitch, thanks to his immense speed and skill. As a member of the Soviet national team, he won two Olympic gold and one silver medals in 1972, 1976 and 1980, respectively. Many years after his death, he is still considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

7. Yuri Vardanyan (weightlifting)

This Soviet Armenian weightlifter went down in the history of the sport as the man who achieved several world records. In particular, Vardanyan became the first weightlifter in the world to reach a total of 400 kilograms in the 82.5 kg weight class.

Vardanyan became four-time champion of the USSR – in 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1982 and five-time European champion – in 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1983. He also won gold at the Summer Olympics from 1980 in Moscow.

After the collapse of the USSR, Vardanyan made a career in Armenian politics.

8. Lidiya Skoblikova (Speed ​​skating)

This Soviet athlete made the Soviet Union dominate speed skating at the Olympics in the 1960s. Skoblikova became the first athlete to win six gold medals at the Winter Olympics in total. In 1964, she was also the first to win four gold medals in a single Winter Olympics. Throughout her career, Skoblikova won 25 gold medals at the world championships and 15 gold medals at the Soviet national championships.

9. Larisa Latynina (Gymnastics)

This Soviet athlete, born in Ukraine when she was part of the Soviet Union, began her career at the age of 19 and quickly rose to international fame. Latynina is often credited with making the Soviet Union a dominant force in the sport.

Between 1956 and 1964, Latynina won 14 individual Olympic medals and four Olympic team medals. At the 14th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Moscow, the athlete competed when she was four months pregnant and nonetheless won five of the six titles.

10. Oleg Blokhin (Football)

This iconic Soviet football player was born in Kiev, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, in 1952 and played for Dynamo Kiev and the Soviet national team. Throughout his career, Blokhin scored 42 goals for the Soviet team, winning the title of top scorer in the history of the Soviet national team.

Selected over 100 times for the games of the Soviet Union, Blokhin competed for the USSR at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, as well as at the 1986 Football World Cup. Recipient of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, Blokhin was also named European Footballer of the Year in 1975. Overall, Blokhin is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. After Ukraine became an independent state, the former player and coach was elected to the Ukrainian legislature for two terms.

Click here for the untold story of the origins of Soviet baseball.

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