Elena Azarova (RUS)
2016 Honor Synchronized Swimmer
FOR THE RECORD: 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th (team); 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (team); 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (team); 1998 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (team); 1991 WORLD CUP: bronze (team); bronze 1995 WORLD CUP: bronze (duet, team); 1997 WORLD CUP: gold (team); 1999 WORLD CUP: gold (team), bronze (duet)
She tried gymnastics, dancing and swimming before she joined the synchronized swim-ming team at the age of five. It was at the Seagull Sports School where she learned to love the water and sports, and it became her second home.
Elena Azarova was paired up with Natalia Gruzdeva at a very young age by her coach, Olga Vasilchenko. The two were considered very promising in the USSR and in 1985, their duet won the youth nationals. The next year they won a bronze medal at the European Junior championships, held in West Berlin, and a gold in the team competition.
Elena joined the National Team in 1989 and very shortly after she was named captain, a role she held until the end of her career. Elena was paired up with a new partner as a member of the National Team, Olga Novokshchenova. Elena continued her success with Olga, winning the duet title at the European Championships in 1995 and as a part of the team, she won gold at the European Championships an astounding six times.
Elena’s first trip to an Olympic Games was in 1996 when the only event on the program for synchro was the team event. The Russian team finished fourth, but after the Atlanta Games they would come to dominate the sport. In 1997, they won the World Cup in Guanzhou, China, the Goodwill Games in New York City in 1998 and at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, her team won its first gold.
After the Sydney Games, Elena took a two and a half year break, but then decided to get back into training and try to make the 2004 Olympic team. It was much harder competing against younger athletes, but with Elena’s talent, she made the 2004 squad. They were favorites going into Athens in 2004 but during their routine the music simply stopped. The girls continued performing the routine until they were given the signal from the judge. They had to perform the routine again and despite the incident the first time, they clearly were the best. They had won the gold again.
After the 2004 Games, Elena retired for good. Today, she is a synchronized swimming coach in Moscow and is busy developing programs and her club. She is married and has two boys.