Irina Baraksanova (URS)

Photo by Tom Theobald.
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Irina Baraksanova was born on July 4, 1969 in Taskhent, Uzbekistan. She began gymnastics at age 7, and quickly found herself on her way to the national training center outside of Moscow. One of her first internationals was in Spain, the 1983 Blume Memorial, where she finished second all-around. 

The following year was a glorious one for Ira, winning the 1984 Junior Europeans and medalling in a number of prestigious internationals (e.g., 1984 Chunichi - 3rd AA; 1984 Moscow News - 2nd AA). Ira's talent shone brightest on the floor exercise, where she was able to combine powerful tumbling with exquisite interpretation and dance to classical pieces. "It is a wonderful feeling when I hear the music and know that the audience follows with attention what I do," Ira told World Gymnastics magazine. 

An Olympic year, the 1984 Los Angeles Games should have been centerpiece event in gymnastics, however the Soviets boycotted these Games and Baraksanova and her teammates instead found themselves competing in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia at the "Alternate" Games. As expected, the Soviet women dominated; Ira brought home a gold team medal.

In 1985, Ira finished fourth overall after the team event, behind teammates Natalia Yurchenko and Olga Mostepanova and Romania's Ekaterina Szabo. A maximum three per country can advance to the all-around finals, and Ira earned that third Soviet spot. The Soviet coaches had other plans however, and substituted Elena Shushunova and Oksana Omelianchik - both of whom went on to tie for first in the AA - for the "injured" Mostepanova and Baraksanova.

Ira petered out after 1985. She traveled to the US for the 1986 American Cup, but wasn't up to par. She finished third. She came back in the International Mixed Pairs event though, taking gold with partner Alexei Tikhonkhih. She missed out on one of the bigger events that year, the 1986 Goodwill Games, being relegated to the position of team alternate.

According the Tribute to the 80s Web site, she competed at the 1987 Moscow Stars, but was a shadow of her former self. She retired soon after. Today Ira works as a kindergarten teacher in Moscow. She shares a child with her first husband, and a set of twins with her second (current) husband.

Thanks to W. Sakata for this update.

. This page was created on April 10, 2001.

 

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