Irina Lashko (USSR/RUS/EUN/AUS)
Honor Diver (2018)
FOR THE RECORD: 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: competitor for the Soviet Union: 4th (3m springboard), 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: competitor for the Olympic Unified Team: silver (3m springboard), 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: competitor for Russia: silver (3m springboard); 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: competitor for Australia: bronze (3m springboard synchro), 7th (3m springboard); 1991 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for Soviet Union: Silver (3m springboard); 1998 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Competitor for Russia: gold (1m springboard, 3m springboard synchro); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for Australia: silver (3m springboard); 2003 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for Australia: gold (1m springboard); 2002 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: competitor for Australia: gold (1m springboard, 3m springboard); 1991 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for the Soviet Union: gold (3m springboard); 1993 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for Russia: silver (1m springboard), 1997 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: competitor for Russia: silver (1m springboard, 3m springboard synchro)
Irina Evgenievna Lashko was born on January 25, 1973 in Samara, Russia. Known as Kuybyshev during the Soviet era, Samara is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers. Irina discovered the sport of diving at the age of five and entered the Sverdlovsk Sports School at the age of ten. Four years later, she represented the Soviet Union at the 1987 FINA Diving World Cup and surprised everyone by winning the silver medal in the 3m springboard event behind Hall of Famer Gao Min of China.
The next year, 15-year old Lashko narrowly missed the podium in the same event at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. In 1989, Irina won her first international gold medal when she upset Gao Min at the USA International Meet in Orlando, Florida.
Leading up to 1992 Olympic Games, Gao and Lashko were the two best women’s 1m and 3m divers in the world, but Gao was unbeatable in Barcelona while Lashko took the silver medal in the 3m event. In 1993, Lashko won two silver medals at the FINA Cup in Beijing, but was out of competition in 1994, to have her daughter, Alina. She returned in 1995 to win the World Cup 1m title and at the 1996 Olympic Games of Atlanta, the following year, it was silver again. This time behind Fu Minxia, another future Hall of Famer.
In 1998, shortly after winning gold medals in the 1m and 3m springboard events at the FINA World Cup, she married Australian businessman Carol Fulner in Melbourne. They had met years earlier at a diving event in Australia, but their relationship created problems for her with the Russian Federation. Not receiving the financial support she felt she deserved, she petitioned the Federation to allow her to compete for her newly adopted country at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Unfortunately, her request was denied and the Games went on without one of the best divers in the world. But in Athens, in 2004, she teamed up with Chantelle Newbury to win a bronze medal in the 3m springboard synchronized event for Australia. This accomplishment made her the first woman in diving history to win medals in three Olympic Games and the only one to represent four different flags in four Olympic Games: Soviet Union (1988), Unified Team (1992), Russia (1996) and Australia (2004).
Irina Lashko had the misfortune of diving during an era dominated by the People’s Republic of China, yet during her career, she managed to record victories over three Hall of Famers, Gao Min, Fu Minxia and Guo Jingjing and no doubt helped push them to greatness. She now joins them as one of the greatest divers of all time.