Irina Mikitenko


Irina Mikitenko - (c)
Maiden name: Irina Volynski
Date of birth: 23. August 1972
Place of birth: Bakanas (Kazakhstan)
Nationality: German
Height: 1,58 m
Weight: 49 kg
Married with: Alexander Mikitenko

(since August 1993)
Children: Alexander (6. June 1994)

Vanessa (7. July 2005)
Residence: Freigericht (Hessen)
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt

Irina Mikitenko was born on August 23, 1972 in Bakanas (Kazakhstan). The city is approximately 100 kilometres away from the former capital Alma-Ata in the southeast of the country close to the border of Kyrgyzstan. Her birthday happens to be just before a major sporting event in Germany: three days later the Olympic Games of Munich were opened. And the Olympics should play a big role in her life later on.  

Irina Mikitenko has two younger sisters, who did sport but not at an elite level. Her parents have no sports background. When she was only one year old, her family moved to Alma-Ata where Irina Mikitenko grew up. Her first sport was figure skating. Already at the age of five years she was on skates and later specialized in pair skating. „You start early in figure skating,“ says Irina Mikitenko. But at the age of twelve she was asked to go to a sports boarding school in a different part of Kazakhstan to begin a figure skating career. Neither she nor her parents wanted that. „It would have been too far away from home and at just twelve years it was too early,“ says Irina Mikitenko, who turned her focus to athletics then. “Athletics is the easiest sport. I was always good in running and was winning all the races in school.” 

Irina Mikitenko first was a middle distance runner and had success: For Kazakhstan she competed at the Central Asian Games in Taschkent (Uzbekistan) in the 1,500 m and won the gold medal in 4:25,4 minutes in September 1995. One year later she was competing at the Olympic Games for the first time: In Atlanta she missed the 5,000 m final finishing eleventh in her heat. 

Immediately after her return from Atlanta the family moved to Germany. The great grandparents of Irina Mikitenko had come from the northwest of Germany to Kazakhstan before World War One. Thus her parents still had a German passport. Mikitenko lives with her family in Freigericht (Hessen), close to the town of Gelnhausen. This place is known for a previous German athletics star: Harald Schmid. The German 400 m hurdles record holder had helped the Mikitenkos when they moved to Germany and arranged a job for her husband Alexander. Today Mikitenko and Schmid still have a close relationship.
Since her move to Germany her husband Alexander is also her coach. Both had met in Alma-Ata doing sports. Previously Alexander’s father Leonid had been Irina Mikitenko’s coach. She studied sport and is a sports teacher. In addition she has obtained a German license to work as a coach.

Since Irina Mikitenko still competed for Kasachstan in the 1996 Olympic Games, she wasn’t eligable to do so for Germany at the World Championships a year later. In 1998 Kazakhstan’s federation agreed to let her run for her new country and she was able to compete at the European Championships. Irina Mikitenko had received German citizenship because of her German family background already shortly after her move in 1996. In the 10,000 m she finished eighth in the European Championships in her debut in the German vest. Four years later she was ninth in this event at the Europeans. But it was mainly the 5,000 m, where Irina Mikitenko achieved top placings at global championships.

At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney Irina Mikitenko finished fifth, four years later she placed seventh in Athens. The multiple German long distance record holder furthermore finished fourth (1999) and fifth (2001) at World Championships in the 5,000 m. For years, Irina Mikitenko was the best German runner at global championships. Since 1999 she is the German 5,000 m record holder. In that year she improved this mark three times to 14:42.05 minutes. One year later Irina Mikitenko broke the German 3,000 m record with 8:30,39. She has a good personal best in the 10,000 m with 31:29.55 minutes (2001), but in the past years she didn’t get an ideal race to improve that time. On the road Irina Mikitenko is even much faster than on the track, which is unusual in long distance running: In September 2008 she ran the German 10 k record of 30:57 in Karlsruhe, Germany. Irina Mikitenko is sure that she never could show her full potential in the 5,000 m as well because she did not get the right race.

After giving birth to her second child in July 2005, Irina Mikitenko concentrated on road races and prepared for her marathon debut. She finally ran her debut successfully in Berlin in September 2007: Coming in second – only beaten by Ethiopia’s world class runner Gete Wami – she finished in a strong 2:24:51 hours. It was by far the fastest marathon debut of a German runner of all times. “Before that time, I wasn’t mentally prepared for a marathon“, answered Irina Mikitenko when asked why she didn’t run the marathon earlier. “But now the marathon is my event.”

In her second 42.195 km race, Irina Mikitenko decided to run the high-class London Marathon in April 2008: „When you always only run in Germany, you can’t improve and develop. Sure, it is nice to run in Germany: you can drive to the race, you will have your own pace maker, your coach can accompany you on a bike during the race.” All of that does not happen in London. And precisely for this reason Irina Mikitenko went there, although she doesn’t even speak English. In London she accomplished a sensation with her victory in 2:24:14 hours and stormed into marathon world-class.

Irina Mikitenko is only the second German winner of the London Marathon after Katrin Dörre-Heinig, who won the race three times between 1992 and 1994. Furthermore it is the first German victory in a World Marathon Majors (WMM) race since 1996. Back then Uta Pippig won the 100th Boston Marathon. In London Irina Mikitenko also improved the German record to 2:24:35 hours, which had been held by Katrin Dörre-Heinig since 1999 in Hamburg. Uta Pippig ran the fastest German time ever in Boston in 1994, clocking 2:21:45. But since since Boston’s start and finish are too far away from each other (point-to-point course), these results are not valid for official records anymore.

Less than half a year later Irina Mikitenko became the fastest German marathon runner of all times, when she broke through the prestigious 2:20 barrier in Berlin. In ideal weather conditions and cheered on by around one million people she took the real,- Berlin-Marathon in 2:19:19. Irina Mikitenko became the fourth fastest marathon runner ever at this time. Only Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain), Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and Mizuki Noguchi (Japan) had run faster before. Her 2:19:19 was the seventh fastest time ever and she became the ninth runner in athletics history to achieve a sub 2:20 result. Additionally she established a world age group record (W35).

In November 2008 Irina Mikitenko became the first non-African winner of a World Marathon Majors (WMM) Series. She took the second series 2007-2008 with her first three marathons of her career – a novelty in the sport. Together with Kenya’s Martin Lel Irina Mikitenko shared a jackpot of one million US-Dollar. It is the highest prize money ever earned by a German athlete.

In 2009 Irina Mikitenko continued her series of superb marathon races: She defended her titel at the Flora London Marathon in April, dominating the best quality city marathon of the year. Among others she left behind the Olympic Champion Constantina Dita (Romania) as well as World Champion Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and clocked a world lead of 2:22:11. With a second place at the Bank of America Chicago-Marathon (2:26:31) in October 2009 Irina Mikitenko won the WMM Series for a second time in a row. Neither a woman nor a man had achieved this before.

Irina Mikitenko has a good relationship to another great marathon runner: world record holder Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25). She once even visited the Briton in her training camp in Albuquerque (USA) in 2001. „It was very interesting to see how Paula trains and we were doing a couple of training sessions together,” recalls Irina Mikitenko, who beat Paula Radcliffe during her first part of her career in some 3,000 and 5,000 m track races.

The two runners met in a road race for the first time at the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2011. Here Irina Mikitenko took second in 2:22:18, finishing one place ahead of Paula Radcliffe. It was the third fastest time in her career and the fastest for almost two and a half years for Irina Mikitenko. With this performance she is back among the world’s best marathon runners.