Alina Kabaeva, born May 12, 1983 in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, is a rhythmic gymnast from Russia.
Kabaeva is known for her extreme natural flexibility. She stands at 1.66m (5’4) and weighs 48kg (106lbs). Alina is Russia’s most successful rhythmic gymnast to date, and is also one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of rhythmic gymnastics.
Kabaeva took up Rhythmic Gymnastics in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1987 at age 4. Her first coach was A. Malkina. Her father was a professional football (soccer) player and the family was always following him to different in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. At first many coaches did not like her because they thought that she was too “heavy” and “ugly” to be a rhythmic gymnast, none of them seemed to consider her a gymnast of any particular talent. In her young teens she moved to Russia, there her mother took her to the Russian head coach Irina Viner, who liked her from the start.
Kabaeva stayed with Viner and from then on claimed title after title. All efforts of Viner and Alina paid off. She made her international debut in 1996. In 1998 at age 15 Alina took out the European Championships in Portugal, her victory considered by many to be completely “out of the blue”. Back then she was the youngest member of the Russian squad and she was competing alongside internationally recognised teammates, like Amina Zaripova. In 1999 Alina became European Champion for the consecutive time and stole the World title in Osaka, Japan. She went on winning a total of 5 all-around titles at the European Championships and added another World title in 2003 in Budapest, Hungary.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, no one doubted her taking the All-Around gold until, on her second performance, the most unexpected thing happened. Kabaeva dropped her hoop and ran to retrieve it outside the competition area. She took home the bronze with the final score of 39.466 (Rope 9.925, Hoop 9.641, Ball 9.950, Ribbon 9.950).
In 2001 at the Goodwill in Brisbane, Australia, Kabaeva won the gold for the Ball, Clubs and Rope, and the silver in the Individual All-Around and Hoop. Alina and her teammate Irina Tchachina tested to a banned diuretic (furosemide) and were stripped of their medals.
Irina Viner, Russian Head Coach and who also served as the Vice of the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee, said her gymnasts had been taking a food supplement called ‘Hyper’ which contained mild diuretics. Which according to Viner the gymnasts were taking for pre-menstrual syndrome. When the supply ran out shortly before the Goodwill Games, the team physiotherapist restocked at a local pharmacy. According to Viner, the supplement sold there was fake and contained furosemide. The commission requested that the Goodwill Games organizing committee nullify Kabaeva and Tchachina’s . The FIG also nullified their results from the World Championships in Madrid, as such Ukraine’s Tamara Yerofeeva was declared the 2001 World Champion.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics Kabaeva took home the gold with a score of 108.400 (Hoop 26.800, Ball 27.350, Clubs 27.150, Ribbon 27.100), the Silver medal went to her teammate Irina Tchachina.
During October 2004 Kabaeva announced her retirement from the sport. However in June 2005 Russian head coach Irina Viner announced a possible comeback. Alina made her comeback at an Italy-Russia friendly competition in Genoa, 10 September, 2005. On March 5, 2006, Alina was placed first at the Gazprom Moscow Grand Prix, with fellow Russians Vera Sessina and Olga Kapranova second and third.