Alina Kabaeva was just a teenager when she took the gymnastics world by storm. Her agility and strength earned her praise as "the most supple woman in Russia."
In 2000 — during the height of her fame — she met a then-married Vladimir Putin, and her life changed forever.
Kabaeva retired from gymnastics in 2005 and tried out a multitude of career opportunities — singing and then modeling. For eight years she held a seat on Russia’s lower level of parliament, the Duma, run under Putin’s United Russia party.
It was in 2008 that Kabaeva shocked the world by becoming Russia’s rumored "Secret First Lady."
At the time, a Russian tabloid broke the news that Putin was dating a woman much younger than him — rumored to be Kabaeva — and that he would be going through with a divorce from his wife of 30 years. Shortly after the paper ran the story, they were forced to close, citing "financial difficulties," the New York Post reported.
Putin divorced his wife, Lyudmila Putina, a former flight attendant in 2013. In 2017, Kabaeva showed off what looked to be a wedding ring during a trip to Italy’s Adriatic coast. However, she dodged questions about her new bling during appearances to promote the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships.
The now 37-year-old Olympic gold medalist mysteriously disappeared in 2018, when it was reported that she was pregnant — and Putin was supposedly the father. A friend of hers told the Daily Mail that she "vanished after giving birth to twins."
Despite no longer being in the spotlight, her friend claims she has kept up the touching habit of leaving flowers at the grave of the mother of a former gymnastics partner. Every time she visits the area, there's a card that reads, "With love from Alina."
Putin is notoriously private about his personal life, and his alleged romance with Kabaeva has never been confirmed, leaving everyone to ask, who is Alina Kabaeva?
Scroll through the gallery below to learn five facts about the Olympic gold medalist.
She Is An Olympic Gold Medalist
Kabeava is one of the most decorated gymnasts in rhythmic gymnastic history. She has two Olympic medals — bronze from the 2000 games and gold from the 2004 games — 14 World Championship medals and 25 European Championship medals.
She Is A Businesswoman
Kabaeva remains the titular head of the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio and print, which scored an exclusive contract to run Netflix’s operations in Russia. It is reported that she has a fleet of luxury cars and a security team that follows her every move.
She Was A Model
The glamorous athlete appeared on the cover of Vogue Russia, wearing a $33,000 gold crown.
She Was Once Engaged
Kabaeva was engaged to politician David Museliani in 2004, but they split after only a year together.
She Was Part Of A Successful Trio Of Gymnasts
Kabeava was once part of an extremely successful trio of Russian gymnasts, which included Lyasan Utiasheva and Irina Chashchina, in the 2000s. The three ladies won multiple medals but are no longer in contact.