SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Three-time Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina and hockey great Vladislav Tretiak were met with an enormous ovation as they joined together to light the cauldron at the Sochi Olympic Games Friday night.
The pair were preceded by tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler Aleksandr "Alexander the Great" Karelin, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, and Athens Gold medalist in gymnastics Alina Kaveva.
Rodnina, 64, won three consecutive gold medals from 1972 to 1980 in the pairs competition with Alexei Ulanov and Alexander Zaitsev. Tretiak, 61, tended goal for the Soviet hockey team's gold medal efforts in 1972, 1976 and 1984, and silver in 1980.
Kaveva, 30, a celebrated rhythmic gymnast, is rumored to be Putin's girlfriend. The Russian president, however, said her role in the ceremony would not be his decision.
“I’m aware of this (the speculation), I was told of this by (Kremlin spokesman) Dmitry Peskov," Putin said, ahead of the Games. "These are the usual red herrings. We have many outstanding sportspeople who are significant and known in the whole world and I am not going to interfere in this process.”