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Maria Sharapova, the world's highest paid female athlete
Russians have been successful at a number of sports and continuously finishing in the top rankings at the Olympic Games. During the Soviet era, the national 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 1952 Olympic Games, Soviet and later Russian athletes have always been in the top three for the number of gold medals collected at the Summer Olympics. The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow while the 2014 Winter Olympics will be hosted by Sochi.
As the Soviet Union, Russia was traditionally very strong in basketball, winning various Olympic tournaments, World Championships and Eurobasket. At the moment they have various players in the NBA, notably Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, and are 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 also had great success in European competitions such as the Euroleague and the ULEB Cup.
During the soviet period, Russia was also a competitive footballing nation, reaching the finals of various international tournaments. With ice hockey and possibly basketball, football is the most popular sport in Russia today. Despite having fantastic players, the USSR never really managed to assert itself as one of the major forces of international football, although its teams won various championships (such as Euro 1960) and reached numerous finals (such as Euro 1988). In recent years, Russian football, which suffered terribly from the break up of 1991, has experienced something of a revival. Russian clubs (such as CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Lokomotiv Moscow and of course Spartak Moscow) are becoming more and more successful on the European stage (CSKA and Zenit winning the UEFA Cup in 2005 and 2008 respectively) and many predict that the Russian league will become one of the strongest in Europe, partly due to Russia's wealth of footballing talent (visible in their team at Euro 2008) and also because of the injection of serious money into the Russian game, which helps to attract notable foreign players as well. The Russian national team, which played some of the most entertaining and skillful football of Euro 2008 and reached the semi final, losing to eventual champions Spain, is rapidly reemerging as a dominant force in international football, under the guidance of Dutch manager Guus Hiddink.
Soviet gymnasts, track-and-field athletes, weight lifters, wrestlers, cross country skiers, and boxers were consistently among the best in the world. Even since the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russian athletes have continued to dominate international competition in these areas. Although ice hockey was only introduced during the Soviet era, the national team soon dominated the sport internationally, winning gold at almost all the Olympics and World Championships they contested, most recently in the 2008 World Championships.
Figure skating is another popular sport; in the 1960s, the Soviet Union rose to become a dominant power in figure skating, especially in pair skating and ice dancing. At every Winter Olympics from 1964 until the present day, a Soviet or Russian pair has won gold, often considered the longest winning streak in modern sports history. Since the end of the Soviet era, tennis has grown in popularity and Russia has produced a number of famous tennis players. Chess is a widely popular pastime; from 1927, Soviet and Russian chess grandmasters have held the world championship almost continuously.
Source : Wikipedia Encyclopedia
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