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Top five popular sports in Russia

Russian Perspective

By Rafael Saakov
On December 12, 2003

When talking about sports, there are two kinds of Russian people- those who admire it and those who hate it. But in Russia, the majority of people love sports. Ice palaces, swimming pools, boxing arenas and skiing stadiums are filled in the days of different events in the country's championships to world cups. But the most popular, in my opinion, are the one's listed in this ranking. Of course it was difficult to make a choice and I think some people would argue with me. OK, let's begin!

1. One thing we can say for certain are the similarities between Russian and American sports - first place in both countries is football. (In Russia football is soccer and in America it is football). The Russian soccer team was the first European champion in the history of the game since 1960. They were also three-time finalists and Olympic champions. Although these achievements happened in the past, the football traditions are still alive. The best Russian teams are Spartak, Lokomotiv and CSKA.

2. Hockey has even more traditions and titles in Russia than football. The famous matches with the Canadians in the1960s and 1970s brought Russia to the top of the hockey pedestal. There are three legendary offensive hockey players Krutov, Larionov and Makarov. These players continued the Russian success in to the 1980s. The 1990s became the decade years for NHL victories for Russian superstars such as Mironov, Konstantinov, Mogilniy and Larionov. Detroit Red Wings' Sergei Fedorov and Florida's Pavel Bure were two phenomenal players. Nowadays, there are more than 70 Russians in the best World League with such leader as Ilya Kovalchuk, from Atlanta Thrashers. Russia is in the 2006 Olympic Games in Italy has a good chance at winning the gold medal.

3. Tennis finally became popular in the beginning of the 1990s when the first president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, started playing tennis. His love for this sport was passed to the people and since then, Russians started playing tennis and passing the tradition on to their chialdren. The most important player in Russian tennis was Evgeniy Kafelnikov, who was the first premiere tennis player and winner of the Davis Cup last year. Lots of Russian tennis players, Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova are popular in America.

4. There is a saying in Russia about Formula One racing... "What Russian doesn't like speed racing?" But you know there is another popular saying... "In Russia there are two kinds of disasters...fools and roads." That's why I think there were no famous racers from Russia in the history of Formula One. Nevertheless, Formula One attracts millions of Russians viewers every weekend. Almost every adult imagines himself in the car while watching the race, and children idolize a Formula One champion like Michael Schumacher. Next year, a great event is supposed to happen in Russian sports; our first racer will sit in the Formula One car joining the Minardi team. His name is Sergey Zlobin.

5. I am sure those who are interested in basketball have heard the name of the Russian player who is now a forward for the Utah Jazz. Andrei Kirilenko became a new leader of the team very soon after Karl Malone went to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. His 03/04 statistics are really fascinating. He's averaging more than 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. The Utah Jazz's #47 shirts are being sold very fast in Russian sport stores, and at basketball games you often see lots of Kirilenko fans.

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