Yelena Petrova rose to international fame in 1989 when she won a half-middleweight silver medal at the World Championships. She competed at the 1990 Goodwill Games, where she won gold in the half-middleweight class. The highlight of her career was the 1992 Olympics, where women competed in Olympic judo for the first time, and Petrova won bronze as a half-middleweight. Petrova also won bronze at the 1994 Goodwill Games and was 12 times Soviet and Russian champion between 1989 and 2000. After finishing her career in 2000 Petrova worked as a judo coach.
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