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Raisa Smetanina

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 4
Silver 5
Bronze 1
Total 10
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
SexFemale
Full nameRaisa Petrovna•Smetanina
Used nameRaisa•Smetanina
Original nameРаиса Петровна•Сметанина
Born29 February 1952 in Mokhcha, Respublika Komi (RUS)
Measurements162 cm / 53 kg
AffiliationsUrozay Syktyvkar/Sportsclub Syktyvkar
NOC(s) Soviet Union Unified Team
Ethnic nationRUS

Biography

Over a long career that encompassed five Olympics, Raisa Smetanina compiled one of the greatest records of any female cross-country skier. She grew up in an area near the Ural Mountains called Komi, where she learned to ski in the frigid winters. A decided loner, she grew up as an only child, and remained single throughout her long career, focusing almost exclusively on her skiing. She began skiing in 1967 and was first named to the Soviet national team in 1972.

Smetanina first came to international attention at the 1974 World Championships, where she finished third in the 5 km and helped the Soviet relay team to win the gold. This led to her greatest Olympic performance at Innsbruck in 1976. She competed in three events, medaling in all three, with a silver at 5 km, and golds in the 10 km and the relay race.

Smetanina competed at the Olympic Winter Games in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992, retiring after the Albertville Olympics. During that time, she won 10 Olympic medals, including four gold. Two of the gold medals came in 1976, and she added another individual gold in the 1980 5 km.

Smetanina’s Olympic career ended when she helped the Unified Team women’s relay team to a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Her gold medal in the relay came only 12 days before her 40th birthday, making her the oldest female gold medalist in Olympic Winter history. Although, it could be argued that Smetanina celebrated only her 10th birthday after Albertville, because of her birth date of 29 February.

Raisa Smetanina also won 13 medals at the World Championships. Of these three were gold medals, including relay titles with the Soviet Union team in 1974 and 1985. Her only individual world title came in the 20 km race in 1982. Smetanina won the World Cup in 1980-81 and silvers at the World Cup in 1978-79 and 1983-84. She also won the 5 km and 10 km at the Holmenkollen Ski Festival and her third Holmenkollen victory came in 5 km in 1979. In 1979 she was awarded also the Holmenkollen medal.

In addition to her international triumphs, Smetanina was 21 times Soviet champion and was named an Emeritus Master of Sport of the USSR. Smetanina grew up skiing in the classical Nordic style, and never adjusted well to the skating technique which was popularized in the early 1980s. She stubbornly refused to learn the skating style and thereafter her competition was confined to the shorter classical style races.

Results

Games Discipline (Sport) Event Status Team Pos Details
1976 Winter Olympics Cross Country Skiing (Skiing) 5 kilometres, Women Olympic 2 Silver Representing Soviet Union    
  10 kilometres, Women Olympic 1 Gold
  4 × 5 kilometres Relay, Women Olympic Soviet Union 1 Gold
1980 Winter Olympics Cross Country Skiing (Skiing) 5 kilometres, Women Olympic 1 Gold Representing Soviet Union    
  10 kilometres, Women Olympic 4
  4 × 5 kilometres Relay, Women Olympic Soviet Union 2 Silver
1984 Winter Olympics Cross Country Skiing (Skiing) 5 kilometres, Women Olympic 11 Representing Soviet Union    
  10 kilometres, Women Olympic 2 Silver
  20 kilometres, Women Olympic 2 Silver
  4 × 5 kilometres Relay, Women Olympic Soviet Union 4
1988 Winter Olympics Cross Country Skiing (Skiing) 5 kilometres, Women Olympic 10 Representing Soviet Union    
  10 kilometres, Women Olympic 2 Silver
  20 kilometres, Women Olympic 3 Bronze
1992 Winter Olympics Cross Country Skiing (Skiing) 15 kilometres, Women Olympic 4 Representing Unified Team    
  4 × 5 kilometres Relay, Women Olympic Unified Team 1 Gold

Special Notes