SOCHI, Russia (AP) — One of the greatest goaltenders of all time and an innovative figure skater who won three straight Olympic pairs titles lit the cauldron together Friday night at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games.
Vladislav Tretiak and Irina Rodnina were given the honor of sparking the cauldron that will burn throughout Russia's first Winter Olympics.
They were handed the torch by Alina Kabayeva, a former Olympic champion gymnast who has been linked romantically with Russian President Vladimir Putin, although the Kremlin has denied it. Other torchbearers in the final group were wrestling great Alexander Karelin, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and tennis star Maria Sharapova.
Tretiak was a star on the great Soviet Union hockey teams of the 1970s and '80s, and is usually called the best goalie ever by those who saw him play.
He was the first Russian-born player to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame and won Olympic gold medals with Soviet teams in 1972, 1976 and 1984.
But he only got silver after his team was upset by the United States in the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980. In the first period of that game, Tretiak allowed two goals, and legendary Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov unexpectedly replaced him with Vladimir Mishkin in an apparent move to shake up his complacent team.
"It was difficult for me to sit on the bench with the score 2-2," Tretiak said at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, the 30th anniversary of the upset. "If I played the second and third period, the game might have turned a different way."
Tretiak also was part of 10 world championship Soviet teams.
Rodnina won her three gold medals with two different partners at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympics. She also won 10 world pairs titles in a row, matching the great Sonja Henie.
She was known for pioneering moves that made her the dominant female pairs skater of her era. After winning the 1972 Olympic title with Alexei Ulanov, she won the following two golds with Alexander Zaitsev.
She moved to the United States in 1990 to work as a coach and guided a Czech pair to a world title.