Iliana Raeva (BUL)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

Courtesy of Tom Theobald

One of a trio of Bulgarian champions of the early 1980s, Iliana Raeva was born on March 15, 1963. Raeva, Lilia Ignatova, and Anelia Ralenkova were, coincidentally, raised on the same street in Sofia, and all competed for club Levski. In a career stretching from 1978 to 1982, Raeva never placed lower than 6th in a major competition.

At her first European Championships in 1978, the 15-year-old Raeva debuted auspiciously in 6th. In 1979, she rose to 4th in the all-around at the World Championships, and also won a gold medal for clubs and a silver for ball. 1980 would see her finally attain international all-around titles, first at the Julieta Shishmanova Cup, and again at the European Championships in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She also dominated the apparatus finals at 1980 Europeans, coming in first with rope, hoop, and clubs, and second with ribbon.

At the 1981 World Championships, Raeva would display her trademark smooth, expressive work, but ended up 2nd behind teammate Ralenkova (and tied with Ignatova) by one-tenth of a point. Although she made all four event finals, she scored only enough for a collection of silvers (hoop and ribbon) and bronze (rope). Nevertheless, she was a crowd favorite, receiving plentiful applause. Raeva finished 3rd at the 1982 European Championships, and also took bronze medals with each of the apparatuses.

Courtesy of Tom Theobald

Famous for her exciting choreography, Iliana Raeva was also a gymnast with the rare ability to touch an audience. While she lacked the difficulty of her younger competitors, she performed with a largely unmatched sophistication and connection to spectators. Her slow and elegant 1982 ribbon, energetic 1980 ribbon to music from Zorba the Greek, and moving 1980 clubs to Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake stand out among a host of noteworthy performances.

After retiring from gymnastics, Raeva married Nasko Sirakov, a Bulgarian soccer player who competed for the National Team in the 1994 World Cup. For a short time, Raeva and Sirakov lived in Spain, where she coached and he played soccer. They finally settled in their home country. Sirakov is the trainer for the elite soccer club Slavia, while Raeva coaches at Club Iliana, the first private gymnastics club in Bulgaria, which she created. Raeva and her husband have two daughters, Violeta and Slavea.

1999-2002. This page was created on August 8th, 1999 and last updated July 2004.


Banner designed by GymnDesign with photographs by Tom Theobald


Disclaimer. The information contained within these pages is compiled from personal interviews, Web sites, magazines, newsgroups, message boards, home video and/or television coverage. Where applicable, sources are cited and links provided. All information is accurate (though not necessarily the most up-to-date) to the best of my knowledge, however should you read something that you believe to be incorrect, please me and I will make the correction as soon as possible. If any information or photos appearing on these pages are copyright of another site, person, or company, i.e., the permission that I have to use this media is invalid and was wrongly given in the first place by those who gave me the media please email me so that I can give proper credit for the media or delete them if preferred. I do not accept liability to any persons for the information or advice provided in this Web site or incorporated into it by reference or for loss or damages incurred as a result of reliance upon the material contained in this Web site.