She dominated long distance swimming since her first FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships in Dubai in 2004, where she won at the age of 16. The next year in Montreal at the 2005 FINA World Swimming Championships, she had a much tougher time as the veterans pushed her under and held her up, but still won with a final sprint. In 2006 in Napoli, Italy, she doubled up with victories in the 5 km and 10 km, again winning with trademark closing sprint, called The Ilchenko. By 2007 and 2008, the juggernaut was firmly established and she confidently swaggered her way onshore while dominating the last part of every race she swam. Her career culminated at the 2008 Beijing Olympic 10K Marathon Swim when she won the first gold medal in open water swimming in very dramatic fashion.
She won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, using her trademark closing kick (The Ilchenko) after being behind the leaders for 9,900 meters of the 10,000-meter swim.
Ilchenko is organizing the 3-stage Champions Cup open water swimming competition together with Eugene Bezruchenko and Vladimir Dyatchin during 2014. The Champions Cup consists of three stages. The first leg will be held in Moscow on 1 June 2014 in the Krylatskoye rowing canal. The second stage will be held in Lipetsk on 8 June 2014 in the central promenade of the city in the river Voronezh. The third stage will be held in Volgograd on 12 July 2014. Each stage is 1 nautical mile or 1,852 meters. Registration opens 1 February 2014 and is available to the first 400 swimmers at each stage. The event is open to both amateurs and professionals. Registration is www.swimcup.ru.
The Queen of the open water swimming announced her retirement in 2010. Identified as a world-class swimmer with greater potential in the open water than the pool at the age of 14, she made a splash at her first FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships in 2004.
From the very beginning, she regularly won her races with a classic come-from-behind victory sprint over the last 100 meters. The multi-lingual personable athlete joins fellow Olympic 10K Marathon Swim gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden in retirement.
She was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer in 2011 and was honored at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in Long Beach soon after her marriage to fellow Russian Olympian Sergey Perunin.
2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
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