Averbukh, with his partner Irina Lobacheva, have competed in two Winter Olympiads for Russia. At the 1998 Games, they finished in fifth place in the ice dancing competition. In 2002, at the scandal-ridden Salt Lake City Olympics, they captured the silver medal. The gold medalists at the 2002 Games were Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France. Averbukh partnered with Anissina in Russia before falling in love with Lobacheva and changing partners.
The scandal at the Games made the ice dancing competition one of the most watched events in Salt Lake City after it was learned that French judge Marie-Reine La Gougne voted for the Russian team over the Canadian team in the pairs final in exchange for a French victory in the ice dancing event. The French team deserved the gold medal in 2002, but previous scandals have threatened to have ice dancing removed from Olympic competition.
Born in Moscow, Averbukh began skating at the age of five. Although he wanted to be a tennis player, at that time Russia had few famous or successful tennis players, that his mother encouraged Ilia to take up skating skate instead. As a child, Averbukh was a member of the club Dynamo Moscow. Ilia and partner Marina Anissina won the World junior championships in 1990 and 1992 were considered one of the top ice dancing couples in the world.
At the 1992 Worlds, Averbukh met Irina Lobacheva (who is not Jewish) and later that year, they became a team. After getting married in 1995, the duo became one of the best pairs in the world of figure skating. That same year, they moved to Delaware with their coaches Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov (a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame), although they continued to compete for Russia.
In 1996, Averbukh and Lobacheva finished third at the Russian Nationals, fifth at the European Championships, and sixth at the World Championships. The following year, they won the Russian Championship and finished sixth at the Europeans and seventh at the Worlds. They competed at the 1998 Olympics, finishing fifth, and improved at both the European and World Championships, finishing fourth at both competitions.
Averbukh and Lobacheva captured the ice dancing gold medal at the Goodwill Games in 2001 and won the bronze medal at both the European and World Championships. In September, however, Lobacheva injured her knee in practice and they missed the entire Grand Prix season. They returned to form in 2002, winning the silver medal at the Olympic Games and then capturing the gold medal at the World Championships.
In 2003, Averbukh and Lobacheva won the gold medal at Skate Canada, then struck gold again at the European Championships. They plan to skate competitively for one or two more years and then retire and return to Russia.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Dec. 18, 1973