A look at Putin ‘girlfriend’ Alina Kabaeva’s controversial gymnastics career

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Alina Kabaeva, 38, is a world-renowned gymnast that has been linked to Vladimir Putin. Rumours of an affair between her and the Russian president began circulating in 2008 after she was dubbed “Russia’s most eligible woman”.

Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent ran a story claiming Putin had divorced his wife, Lyudmila Putina, and was going to marry Kabaeva.

However, the Kremlin soon denied this and the newspaper was completely shutdown soon after. Later in 2013, Putin announced his divorce from Putina and the rumours started to circulate again.

Around this time, the gymnast confirmed she had found a partner and said: “Sometimes you feel so joyful that you feel afraid.”

She has faced her fair share of controversy, especially when it comes to her gymnast career.

When did Alina Kabaeva'a career begin?

Kabaeva was born in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, in the Soviet Union on 12 May 1983.

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She is the daughter of Lyubov Kabaeva and Marat Kabayev, a former professional footballer.

Kabaeva started rhythmic gymnastics at the young age of four.

In her early teens, her mother took her to Russian head coach Irina Viner and she began professionally competing in 1996.

Viner said: "I could not believe my eyes, when I first saw her. The girl has the rare combination of two qualities crucial in rhythmic gymnastics – flexibility and agility."

She made her international debut in 1996, and In 1998, at just 15 years old, and the youngest member of the Russian squad, Kabaeva won the European Championships in Portugal.

The following year, she won her first World Title as European Champion in Osaka, Japan, she later went on to win five more.

What awards has Alina Kabaeva won?

Kabaeva's is decorated as one of Russia's finest gymnasts and she has the medals to prove it.

She took home two Olympic medals, bronze and gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics, respectively.

She also won a staggering 14 World Championship medals, and 21 European Championship medals.

In honour of her illustrious career, she helped carry the flame at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, following her retirement.

What happened to Alina Kabaeva’s career?

In 2001, Kabaeva was disqualified from competing in gymnastics because she was found to have furosemide in her system during a drug check at Australia's 2001 Goodwill Games.

Furosemide, a diuretic, had been placed on the banned list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in January that year because of evidence of "its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance".

Kabaeva’s disqualification kept her from competing in the sport for two years and was forced to return the medals she won at the rhythmic gymnastics world championship in Madrid in October 2001.

Kabaeva was the overall world champion at the Madrid event, making her dismissal even more devastating.

Today, she has stepped away from the athletic arena and into the media.

What does Alina Kabaeva do today?

In 2014, Kabaeva was given the task to run the state-owed National Media Group by the Kremlin.

According to the Evening Standard, this role has a reported salary of $10 million (£8.10 million) a year.

However, Kabaeva had no prior experience in business or media roles, raising questions on how she got the position to begin with.

National Media Group reports on and televises news and information straight from the Kremlin and is the biggest supporter of Putin.

Russia lawyer and anti-Putin activist Alexei Navalny has demanded that Kabaeva face severe sanctions similar to Putin’s daughters.

From his prison cell, he said: “I want to remind you that the National Media Group, which owns the lion’s share of this apparatus of lies, undoubtedly belongs to Putin personally, and as such is even formally headed by Putin’s mistress Alina Kabaeva.”

Are Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva dating?

Kabaeva has been called everythintg from “Russia’s First Mistress,” to the “Secret First Lady.”

However, regardless of the consistent rumours, she has gone on record as denying she is romantically linked to Putin.

Their relationship has never been confirmed and the Kremlin continually denies it.

Putin was once asked about his relationship with Kabaeva and said: “I’ve always had a negative feeling about people poking their snotty noses and erotic fantasies into other people’s lives.”

  • Russia
  • Vladimir Putin

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