Olympic Stories

Irina Mikitenko

Irina Mikitenko

Irina Mikitenko is a German professional long distance runner and was born on August 23, 1972 in Bakanas, Kazakhstan. Her great grandparents had moved to Kazakhstan just before the first World War, so her parents still had their German passports.

Mikitenko’s birthday is just before a major sporting event in Germany -just three days after she was born the Olympic Games of Munich began. Little did her family know that one day she would play a big part in the local Olympics for her country.

Irina Mikitenko has two younger sisters, both of whom were involved in sport but only to amateur level. When she was a year old, her family relocated to Alma-Ata and this is where she was raised. Before becoming a runner,  Mikitenko was involved in figure skating. At as young as 5 years old she was already on skates and later she specialised in pair-skating.

At age 12 she was invited to sports boarding school to train in figure skating but as it was very far from the family she, nor her family, wanted it and so she refused. This is when she turned her attention to athletics and started running. She discovered she was very good at it and was winning all of the school running competitions.

She started out as a middle distance runner and showed a great talent for it. Mikitenko competed in the Central Asian Games in Uzbekistan in 2005 and won a gold medal in the 1,500 metre race in 4:25 minutes. The following year in 2006 she participated in the Olympics in Atlanta, but struggled with the heat and came 11th in the 5,000 metre race.

After Mikitenko came back from Atlanta her family relocated to Germany, to the town of Gelnhausen. Another former athletics champion, Harald Schmind, also came from the same town and he helped Mikitenko and her family when they arrived in Germany. Mikitenko and Schmid are still close friends. In Germany, Mikitenko studied sports and became a sports tutor.

                                                 
As Mikitenko competed for Kazakhstan in the Olympics of 1996, she was unable to compete for Germany the following year. Two years afterward, she was given permission by the Kazakhstan Federation to compete for Germany and so she entered into the European Championships.

She ran the 10,000 metre race and came 8th in her first run for Germany. Then in 2002, she ran again in the European Championships and took only 9th place. It appeared that Mikitenko did far better in the 5,000 metre races as this was where she achieve her most notable feats.

Later, Mikitenko competed in the Athens Olympics and came 7th. She became known as the best German female runner in international championships. She slowly turned to long distance road running where it became apparent that her talents lay, and in 2008 she broke the 10 kilometre German record of 30:57 minutes. Her first marathon was in Berlin in 2007 where she came 2nd, and she later ran the London Marathon in 2008 and became only the 2nd German winner of the event.

She claimed victory at the 2011 Parelloop 10K in April. Running at the 2011 London Marathon, she could not keep pace with the race leaders and ended the race in seventh while Mary Keitany won the race with a time equal to Mikitenko's best.

Career Highlights

  • 2004 Athens Olympic Games – 7th
  • 2000 Sydney Olympic Games – 5th
  • 2008 World Marathon Majors – 1st
  • 2007 World Marathon Majors – 2nd

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