Original written in Russian, published on ETO Sport No.8 Jul-Aug 2007
English text is translated and edited by Alyona. BIG BIG THANKS TO HER！！！
When a person reaches the top the eyes of everyone are fixed upon him. Some people admire him, some are proud of him, some are ready to give any support and some people just envy. And only the one who has reached the top and maybe some of his close friends and relatives know which efforts it cost him to get there, which difficulties he had to overcome, what he had to sacrifice and what he could not refuse from.
Zhenya Kanaeva is only seventeen. But she has already stepped on the highest podium several times. She started with junior and then moved on to senior competitions. A repeated champion of Russian Nationals, a winner of several international events in France, Italy, Israel, Slovenia and Japan, a European Champion, a member of National Team of Russia, Honored Master of Sports of International Level… At seventeen the career doesn’t finish. I just want to understand and at least try to feel the moral value of the big victories of this little girl. No one could help better in this case than her mom – Svetlana Kanaeva, herself – Evgenia Kanaeva and her coach – Vera Shtelbaums.
The mother, who understands everything
– Svetlana, is it true that you also made your first steps in Rhythmic Gymnastics here in this Sports Palace?
– Yes, but that time it could hardly be called a “palace”. It was a building belonging to Spartak Sports Club and there were different sport groups training there such as boxers, volleyball players and some health groups. We used to fight for the gym with volleyball players. Now the Sports Palace is a regional center of preparing the Olympic reserves. In our time we didn’t have any facilities like that.
– But anyway you managed to get the title of Master of Sports…
– You know, gymnastics absorbs you so much and never lets you go. I continued to practice till high school, and then I entered the Physical Training College and began to train young gymnasts. But I realized that these are two different things – to practice and to train someone. To become a trainer you need a special talent. It was hard time for sport then, the salaries were very low. That is why I had to switch to another field of activity.
– But gymnastics still doesn’t let you go.
– Seems like that. When Zhenya was five years old, my mother took her to the gym.
– Your mom Irina Alexandrovna is an ever-active mom and grandma.
– Yes. She is attracted to sports. She has never done any sport herself, but she is truly attracted to it. At first Zhenya was trained by the student of Vera Shtelbaums and she offered us to show Zhenya to Vera Efremovna, who was taking a new group of young gymnasts that time.
– You were lucky…
– Exactly. But some time later Vera Shtelbaums moved to Moscow with her student Irina Tchashina and Zhenya stayed with Elena Arais. To tell the truth gymnastics didn’t come easy to me and Zhenya is more gifted, she is more flexible. Maybe it is because of her genes. At the age of seven she took part and won her first competition. She came back home with a big Teddy Bear. At the age of twelve she won the Russian Nationals among the juniors. Vera Shtelbaums took her to the Center of Olympic reserves in Moscow.
– Weren’t you afraid to let her go?
– It hurt me. I was not afraid because she has always been a very self-reliant and communicative person. She could easily make friends with shop assistants who would open themselves to her. She would get acquainted with conductors in public transport while going to the trainings. She easily becomes friends with people. And of course, I and my mom miss her so much.
– Many parents don’t let their children leave home at more mature age.
– But I saw that Zhenya could not do without gymnastics. It was her destiny. How could I interfere? I call her every day on phone.
– Now you work to pay your telephone bills, right?
– Well, we have Megafon now, it is cheaper. And Zhenya also calls me. She needs to give way to her emotions. When she won the ribbon final at the European Championship, she was crying from happiness on the phone. I am afraid of watching live transmissions on television, I get very nervous.
– So, anyway, you remain close to each other.
– Yes. Sometimes people who share one apartment may be strange to each other. We are close – it is true. I divide my holiday into two parts to visit her.
– Is she financially secure at the age of seventeen?
– Yes, but we save up some money for her future education. Besides physical training she dreams of studying foreign languages and computers. She has big plans for the future. Zhenya became more mature and restrained.
– But anyway she is mama’s girl, isn’t she?
– Although she is very independent.
– I mean, in gymnastics.
– But she can skate and I can’t.
– Zhenya, do you think you are a successful girl?
– I am usual. I don’t think about this. Some people adore themselves but I don’t. I don’t think that I am special. All people are the same.
– How come the same? Everyone reaches different level of success.
– Success doesn’t last forever. Today you may be successful and tomorrow you may be a failure.
– So what does success depend on?
– It depends on your work, desire to work and your aspiration to reach something. One person can develop his/her talent, the other one can’t – it is common for every field of activity. The main thing is to understand what the coach needs from you. You have to switch on your brain. With no brain it would be tough.
– Does it mean that you have brain?
– Not always. When emotions prevail, the brain works harder. Sometimes I fly off the handle. When I cannot cope with a task, first of all I get angry at the others, as if it is somebody else’s fault. Then I realize that everything depends on me and I start to work from the very beginning.
– Do you feel comfortable in Novogorsk?
– At first everything was wonderful, and then it became a bit more difficult.
– When “then”?
– After I won the Russian Nationals.
– Among juniors? You were twelve then, right?
– Yeah. The girls started to treat me somehow with more caution; they were on the look-out… And then again everything went ok.
– It means that you didn’t put on airs.
– Why should I put on airs? This is so foolish.
– Do you think that the girls who do sports get mature sooner than the others?
– Yes, I think they do what concerns their intellect.
– But it is known that sportsmen usually lack intellect.
– Not that I know of. All the girls in our team are very intelligent: Vera Sessina, Olga Kapranova, not mentioning Irina Tchashina. She is super! All of them read very much, they know many things and they all are very broad-minded.
– In the army there is violence against younger conscripts. Is there anything like this in gymnastics?
– Oh, no! Senior gymnasts always help the younger ones.
– Do you tremble before a competition?
– Before – I do. If there is no nervousness it is bad. But during the performance there is no nervousness left. Only at first you tremble a little and then it goes away.
– While performing what do you think about?
– When I perform I never think about the places. I think about executing the program the best way I can. But sometimes my thoughts are quite crowded.
– Do you really have time to think during the performance? Isn’t it all automatic?
– When it’s automatic, it’s the best… When it’s not, it comes out worse. When it’s automatic, it means that you have worked out every single part of your program.
– Which apparatus is your favorite one?
– All of them.
– Which is the most difficult then?
– I don’t have any. Every apparatus is specific and you need to work it out a lot again and again.
– Does it ever happen that you start to hate an element?
– Sometimes I get bored of an element but never have I hated them.
– Has sport taught you anything?
– Yes, I opened my eyes to many things and I started to realize a lot. I always try to see only the good, but with the lapse of time I realize that the world is not that perfect and smooth. I keep observing and learning.
– So what are your conclusions?
– Think before telling something.
– Or maybe don’t tell everything you think?
– Well, I have problems with it.
– Your mom says that she misses you very much.
– Me too.
– Do you have any time for missing anyone?
– In the day time we practice or perform and there is no time for missing, but in the evenings I miss her a lot. I call her or she calls me. Every single day. Some girls visit their homes only once a year. I am luckier in this case, with my coach we visit home oftener.
– Is that why you are lucky with your coach?
– Not at all! I am very lucky to have her. Vera Efremovna always helps and supports me, tells me how to do better. I am absolutely happy to be trained by Vera Efremovna since my childhood. Without her I wouldn’t manage it here in Moscow.
– You have traveled to many places. Which countries did you like most of all?
– Japan. It is so unusual, beautiful and the people are very interesting there.
– Zhenya, you know, when Irina Tchashina visited us last time we wanted to make her photo session with her leotards and ask her to tell us any story connected with them. But she said that you had almost all of her leotards.
– Yes, it is true. I am her heiress so to say. But I have grown out of many of them already. I use just the red and white one now and I love it very much. Our leotards are created in Volgograd and Nizhniy Novgorod. I believe that all Ira’s leotards are very lucky.
– What means happiness to you?
– It is when I manage not to let down my coach who has invested not only her knowledge, but also health and soul in you. I always try to live up to the expectations of people who work with us. No one becomes a champion all by herself. National anthem of Russia and national flag are for us. And it is the most important thing.
Not only a trainer
– Vera Efremovna, your students are so different and you need to find an individual approach to each of them.
– How else can it be? But now you mean Irina Tchashina and Zhenya Kanaeva?
– In this case, yes.
– They are very different. Irina has always been very serious, since her childhood. She was very reserved. She used to keep everything inside. Even if she got injured or felt not well, she would never complain about that. Can you imagine, her foot hurts and I make her repeat the same thing again and again, but she would keep silent and continue to practice. And then when I learn which pain she had to suffer, how should I feel myself? Zhenya is very open, she is overwhelmed with emotions.
– Is it bad?
– It is bad for gymnastics. When she cannot cope with a task, I reprove it – and you can see everything on her face. “Are you offended”, – I would ask. – “There is nothing to be offended about. If something goes bad, how can I tell you that it is good?”
– Because later it will be even worse.
– Exactly! But the girls are so impatient, they want to have everything and right now. It never happens like this in life. You can go up very high and find yourself on the top, but the higher you fly the harder it will be to fall down.
– It is more secure to go step by step.
– Of course, and safely, but one needs patience for that. Frankly speaking, I can’t upbraid Ira and Zhenya for lack of patience. But it is unbearable work. There is no single day without practice. Usually the girls of their age play dolls and enjoy their lives with nothing to care about. But our girls take such a huge responsibility upon their shoulders.
– Not mentioning your responsibility. Is it difficult for you in Moscow?
– Not easy, of course. But what can I do? Otherwise we wouldn’t see our girls on the podium. In Moscow people don’t pay much attention to people from province. One day there was a television talk show about Irina Tchashina on Ren-TV, and the moderator said: “She comes from a little town in Siberia.” Imagine, Omsk is a little town!
– Especially having these traditions in rhythmic gymnastic.
– Who cares for that? But our girls are of high class, not provincial. Zhenya is a very clever girl and very self-reliant. She knows Moscow not worse that the residents themselves. When Ira was seventeen she never went downtown without me, and Zhenya adapted to Moscow long time ago. So what province they are talking about? And my heart aches for them so much. At each competition I worry about them with all my heart. There are many competitions; we are always on the way – planes, trains, different time zones… You know sometimes in my dreams I see this gym in Omsk. We have a magnificent gymnastic centre here! I dream of training little girls here.
– Are the facilities in Moscow also good?
– They are good. But this gym is my home. These people are my people. We are one family.
– Yes, you can feel it by the way they welcome you.
– My heart rests here. But as long as I have power, I must bring our girls to the world’s arena.
If you visit the training, you will get evidence that Vera Efremovna’s power, energy and creativity are inexhaustible. The congratulations which she got this year at her anniversary were not a tribute to her age but a tribute to the sacred work she does. One thing is when the mother of brothers Bure or the father of Maria Sharapova devote their lives to their children and follow them wherever they go. And the other thing is when a person gives all her power, talent, love and heart to somebody else’s children who become her children and step by step go from provincial to international level. Can anyone evaluate the price of this ascension? I wonder if there is any price like that.
向上提升-ETO Sport No.8 2007年7/8月號
Chinese translated by Zoe Wan
當 一個人站上頂端時，每個人的眼睛看著他。有的人欣賞他，有的人以他為榮，有的人準備開始支持他，有的人則心存嫉妒。只有那些曾達到頂端的人，或者他親密的 朋友或親人才能瞭解他是花費了多少努力才能走到這裡，他必須克服哪些困難，他犧牲了什麼換來的，及為何他無法拒絕這樣做。
Zhenya今年才17歲，但是她已經多次站上頒獎台上的最高榮耀。她從少年組開始然後進入成年組的比賽。多次的俄羅斯國家錦標賽冠軍，分別在法國、義大利、以色列、斯洛維尼亞跟日本等好幾個國際比賽中獲得優勝。歐錦賽冠軍，俄羅斯國家隊成員，已經達到Honored Master of Sports 的國際水準…17歲，她的運動生涯尚未結束。我想了解或者至少去感受那些重大勝利對這個小女孩的精神上的意義。這方面，沒有人比她的媽媽-Svetlana、她自己-Evgenia Kanaeva及她的教練Vera Shtelbaums了解的更透徹了。
– 但是無論如何你獲得了Master of Sports的頭銜…
– 你的媽媽 Irina Alexandrovna 是個很積極的媽媽跟外婆。
– 是的。她是運動迷。她自己沒有從事任何運動，但她真的很迷運動。剛開始Zhenya是讓Vera Shtelbaums的學生帶的。是她建議我們帶Zhenya去找Vera Shtelbaums，她當時正在帶一個新的年輕體操選手的團體。
– 的確。但一段時間之後，Shtelbaums就跟她的學生Irina Tchashina一起到莫斯科去了，而Zhenya則留在這讓Shtelbaums的女兒Elena Arais.帶。 說實話，對我而言，體操不是很容易。而Zhenya更有天賦，她的柔韌更好。也許是基因的關係吧。七歲的時候她參加了一個比賽並且贏了第一次冠軍。還帶了一隻大的泰迪熊回家。12歲的時候，她贏得了俄羅斯國家錦標賽少年組的冠軍。Vera Shtelbaums在那時帶她到莫斯科的奧運預備中心。
– 但我看到Zhenya不能沒有RG。這是她的命運。我怎麼能阻擾她? 我每天都打電話給她。
– 怎麼會一樣? 每個人的成功程度都不一樣。
– 這表示你並不趾高氣昂 (意指Zhenya沒有驕傲自大)。
– 我認識的不是這樣。所有我們隊上的女孩都非常聰明。Vera Sessina, Olga Kapranova, Irina Tchachina就更不用說了，她非常優秀。她們都讀很多書，懂很多事情且她們的心胸都很寬廣。
– 喔，不! 年紀大的選手總是會幫助年紀小的。
– 表演的時候，你真的有時間去想這些嗎? 一切不都應該是很自動自發嗎?
– 不是這樣的! 我很幸運有她這樣的教練。Vera Efremovna 總是幫助我跟支持我，告訴我怎麼做比較好。從我小時候開始我就非常高興能被Vera Efremovna訓練。沒有她，我無法應付莫斯科的生活。
– Zhenya，你知道嗎，上一次Irina Tchachina來拜訪我們時，我們希望她能穿上體操服拍一組照片，並告訴我們任何關於那些衣服的故事。結果她說她的體操服都傳給你了。
-這是真的。我是她的”繼承人”你可以這樣說。但我已經長大許多。現在我只穿紅白相間那件，我很喜歡那件衣服。我們的體操服是在Volgograd and Nizhniy Novgorod製作的。我相信所有Ira的衣服都帶著幸運。
– 她們兩個非常不同。Ira從小就非常嚴肅。她非常保留。她總是把每件事都藏在心裡。即使她受傷了或者覺得不舒服，她都不會抱怨。你能想像嗎? 她的腳受傷了，而我叫她重複練習一樣的動作一遍又一遍，但她會一直保持沈默然後持續練習。然後當我知道她忍受著多大的痛苦時，我心裡是什麼感受。Zhenya則非常的開放，她的情感很氾濫。
– 對韻律體操而言不好。當她無法做好一件事時，我責備她- 你可以看到她的情緒都寫在臉上。我會問”你在生氣嗎? ” – ”沒什麼好生氣的。如果有些事情沒做好，我怎麼能告訴你那是好的?”
– 沒錯! 但女孩們總是很沒耐心，她們想要馬上就擁有每件事。生活從來不會發生這種事。你可以爬的很高發現你自己站在頂端。但你飛的越高你摔的越重。
– 當然不容易。但我能怎麼辦，不這樣我就無法看到我們的女孩站上頒獎台。莫斯科的人不會對其他地區來的人多加注意。有一天 Ren-TV的一個談話節目談到Ira，然後那主持人說: “她來自西伯利亞的一個小鎮.” 你能想像嗎? 說OMSK是小鎮!
– 誰會在乎這個。但我們女孩的水準都很高的，她們不是鄉下人。Zhenya是非常聰明而且非常獨立自主的女孩。她對莫斯科的了解不輸給當地人。當Ira十七歲時，她不會在沒有我陪伴的情況下單獨上街，而Zhenya很早就適應莫斯科的生活了。所以他們是在說什麼鄉下地方? 我為她們感到心疼。每次比賽我都非常擔心她們。有非常多的比賽，我們總是在趕場-飛機、火車、時差…你知道嗎，我有時會夢到我們這裡的體操館。我們有個雄偉的體操館，我夢想著在那裡訓練小女孩。
如果你去參觀訓練，你就能得到印證Vera Efremovna的力量、精力跟創造力是很豐富的。她今年生日接受的祝賀不只是祝賀她的年紀，也是感謝她所做的這些神聖的貢獻。有一種人是像Bure兄弟 (有名的冰上曲棍球選手) 的母親或者Maria Sharapova (著名的職業女網選手) 的父親，奉獻他們的人生給自己的小孩，不管到哪裡都跟隨在他們身邊。另一種人是奉獻了她所有的力量、才能、愛跟她的心給別人的小孩，而這小孩成為她的孩子。且一步步地從地方走向國際的水準。有任何人能評估這種幫助他人成長的價值嗎? 我懷疑是否有任何有價的東西是這樣的。