Marina Kravchenko was born on May 19, 1975, in the Ukraine.
She has been playing table tennis since age seven under the tutelage of her father, who coached the Ukrainian national team. In 1987, Marina represented the Ukraine in the European Championships and won the silver in the singles, bronze in the doubles, and the Ukraine won a team silver. She twice finished second in the USSR Youth Championships and came in first in the TOP 12 tournament. In 1991, Kravchenko was a member of the Soviet table tennis team, helping it win the European Championships gold medal.
In 1994, she moved to Israel after falling in love with an Israeli coach (her future husband) during the Maccabiah competition. After moving to Israel ten years ago, she was signed by the Nazareth Elite table tennis club. Beitar Rishon Le'Tzion tempted her away after it became clear that she was the best player in the country. Her team has won eight straight national titles since she joined the fray. In 2002, Marina won the St. Petersburg open and, in 2003, she came in second in a Finnish open event. Kravchenko entered the pre-Olympic event in Luxembourg, needing an 11th place finish to achieve the Israeli Olympic criteria. Against the best players in the world, the Israeli finished 8th and guaranteed a spot in the squad. Marina finished seventh in the Gold Cup event in the Ukraine in 2004 as well.
Kravchenko looked to be on fine form as the 2004 Athens Olympics kicked off. In the first round of the singles table tennis event held on August 14, she breezed past her Greek opponent Archontoula Volakaki. The victory was never in doubt as the Israeli won 11-6, 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 and advanced to the second round. The following day, Marina pulled off a sensation in the second round. Her opponent was Otilia Badescu of Romania, European Champion and ranked sixth in the world. She won the first two sets 11-6, 11-9 before the Romanian came back with a 4-11 game in the third. Kravchenko would not give in and won the last game 11-6 thus causing a major upset. Marina says she had extra motivation to win since “Badescu told a Russian friend of mine that she could beat me easily.” The Israeli was beaten in the third round by Croatian Tamara Boros (ranked fifth in the competition). Kravchenko was eliminated in four straight sets 11-8, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7.
Sources: Jews In Sports