Mariya Gusakova made her international début at the 1958 World Championships, where she was sixth in the 10 km. At the 1960 Winter Olympics, Gusakova was not considered as the top Soviet skier, but in the 10 km, after being 23 seconds behind the leader at the halfway point, she won the event with a very strong finish, surprisingly defeating her more famous team members, Lyubov Baranova-Kozyreva, Radiya Yeroshina and Alevtina Kolchina. This was the first medal sweep at the Winter Olympics for the Soviet Union. Gusakova added a silver in the relay at the same Olympics and a bronze in the 10 km at the next Winter Olympics. At the 1962 World Championships, Gusakova added a full set of medals to her collection, winning a gold in the relay, placing second at 10 km and winning a bronze in the 5 km. Domestically Gusakova won six Soviet titles, 5 km in 1961, 10 km in 1960 and 1961, and in the relay in 1958, 1962 and 1966. Her husband Nikolay competed in the Nordic combined, winning a bronze at the 1960 Winter Olympics.