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Alina Maratovna Kabaeva (Russian: Али́на Мара́товна Каба́ева) was born May 12, 1983 in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, in the Soviet Union. She is a Russian retired rhythmic gymnast and currently a politician. Since 2007, she has been a State Duma deputy from the United Russia party. Since February 2008 she has been Chairman of the National Media Group's Public Council, the media group that controls Izvestia, Channel One and REN TV. On 26 May 2012, in her capacity as State Duma deputy for the city of Nizhnekamsk, Alina took part in celebrations to mark the 45th anniversary of the opening of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, the city's biggest industrial enterprise.
Kabaeva is Russia's most successful rhythmic gymnast to date, and is also one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of rhythmic gymnastics with two Olympic medals, 18 world championship medals and 25 European championship medals. She was the daughter of a Tatar father and Russian mother and started rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 3 with coach Margarita Samuilovna. Her father Marat Kabayev was a professional football (soccer) player and the family was constantly following him to different places in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. At first, many coaches did not like Alina because they considered her too heavy and ugly to be a top rhythmic gymnast, none of them seemed to consider her a rhythmic gymnast of any exceptional talent. When she was a young teenager she moved to Russia, where her mother took her to the Russian head coach Irina Viner, who liked her immediately.
She stayed with Viner and made her international debut in 1996. In 1998 the 15 year old Kabaeva won the European Championships in Portugal. At the time she was the youngest member of the Russian team, competing along with internationally recognized teammates like Amina Zaripova. In 1999 Kabaeva became European Champion for the second consecutive time and won the World title in Osaka, Japan. She went on to win a total of 5 all-around titles at the European Championships and added another World title in 2003 in Budapest, Hungary.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kabaeva was expected to win gold in the all-around, but due to an error in an otherwise exceptional performance she took home the bronze while fellow Russian teammate Yulia Barsukova won the Olympic Gold medal in the event. At the 2001 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, she won the gold for the ball, clubs and rope, and silver in the Individual All-Around and hoop. However, Kabaeva and her teammate Irina Tchachina tested positive to a banned diuretic (furosemide) and were stripped of their medals.
Irina Viner, the Russian head coach, who also served as the Vice President of the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee at the time, said that the two gymnasts had been taking a food supplement called "Hyper" which contained mild diuretics, which, according to Viner, the gymnasts were taking for pre-menstrual syndrome. When the supply ran out shortly before the Goodwill Games, the team physiotherapist restocked at a local pharmacy. According to Viner, the supplement sold there was fake and contained furosemide. The commission requested the Goodwill Games organizing committee to nullify Kabaeva and Tchachina's results. The FIG also nullified their results from the World Championships in Madrid, causing Ukraine's Tamara Yerofeeva to be declared the 2001 World Champion.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics Kabaeva took home the gold medal in the individual all-around for rhythmic gymnastics and the silver medal went to her teammate Irina Tchachina. Some days before the games she converted to Eastern Orthodoxy from Islam at a church and in October 2004, Kabaeva announced her retirement from the sport. However, in June 2005, the Russian head coach Irina Viner announced a possible comeback. Kabaeva resumed her sports career at an Italy-Russia friendly competition in Genoa, on 10 September 2005. On March 5, 2006, She won the Gazprom Moscow Grand Prix, with fellow Russians Vera Sessina and Olga Kapranova taking second and third places. Kabaeva was the winner of the Gold medal at the 28th Olympic Games in Athens in 2004; Bronze medal winner at the 27th Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000; twice all-round world champion in 1999 and 2003; five times all-round European champion in 1998-2000, 2002, 2004 and six times all-round Russian champion in 1999-2001, 2004, 2006-2007.
Alina Kabaeva was known as the most flexible woman in Russia and was allegedly Vladimir Putin’s mistress. She has appeared on the cover of Russian Vogue as well as on the cover of Maxim Magazine. In mid-April 2008 the Russian paper Moskovsky Korrespondent stated that she was engaged to marry the Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-June, after he left office. It sourced the news to a St. Petersburg based planner bidding to conduct the wedding reception. On April 18, 2008 Putin addressed the article in a press conference with Silvio Berlusconi, saying, “There is not a single word of truth in it". While Putin had been abroad and unavailable for comment, Kabayeva’s spokeswoman had already refused to discuss what she referred to as "this nonsense”. Another story that Ludmilla and the President have already, in fact, divorced appeared in the Moscow tabloid Moscovski Korrespondent was reported in the Daily Mail. The newspaper claimed that the secret divorce came through in February and that Putin will marry the gymnast-turned-MP in St Petersburg on June 15. The article cited a source close to an event planning company saying the firm was competing for the right to host the wedding at an imperial palace on this date.