At 22, Evgenia Kanaeva has become the first 2-time Olympic champion in Rhythmic Gymnastics, and the overall number of her gold medals have long passed 50. She is successful good-looking and incredibly hardworking. After London Olympics, Zhenya is taking time off and so far is not making any plans for the future.
We’ve met with Evgenia Kanaeva at Baltschug Kempinski Moscow hotel. For the photoshoot, she was given a light make-up and a 60s-style hairdo. Pleased with the outcome, Zhenya frankly answered all our questions.
– Your mom (Master of Sports in Rhythmic Gymnastics) must have been the one to introduce you to the sport?
– No, my grandmother signed me up for the gymnastics – to make me slim down a bit and to straighten my legs. Mom did not want me to do the gymnastics in the beginning – she herself had struggled in training (she lacked physical competencies), but she achieved the Master of Sports thanks to her hard work.
-And it turned out that you have a future in the sport?
– It turned out that my physical competencies were better than my Mom’s. In addition, I was extremely flexible as a child, they folded me in half all the time: I could come to the gym and do that without warming up.
– As a child, did you dream of going to the Olympics?
– I could not even imagine that I would join the national team – in Russia, it is extremely hard, almost impossible to do (it is the strongest rhythmic gymnastics school in the world). That is why I did not even think I would be competing at the Worlds, or Europeans or Olympics.
-So it was just a simple luck?
– It hurts to hear something like that: there are no accidents in sports. I trained since 6 in the morning, slaved away at the gym entire days. Before I got on the national team, I only had a little bit of time at the field of play, which is why, when older girls were rehearsing, I was practicing separate elements in the corner. Of course, it was hard, but I wanted and loved it so much, and it was worth it for me.
– What do you think your figure would look like if you have not been doing gymnastics?
– Like every next person who is tempted by and eats sweets and pastry, I am predisposed to plumpness. I guess, I would have had flabby legs and a large belly without a muscle tone.
– If you were not an athlete, which rhythmic gymnastics apparatus you would like to try at the gym?
– I don’t even know, they are all favorite. I could jump with a rope; they say spinning a hoop is good for one’s waist, and it is good to play ball to develop coordination.
– Do you think, rhythmic gymnastics training has affected your character?
– I got used to making my own decisions. I have been on the national team since childhood (since 11 years old – on the junior national team, and then on the senior one). During all that time, I have been “self-raising” myself because my parents were far away; only my personal coach Vera Efremovna Steilbaums and the head coach of the national team Irina Aleksandrovna Viner were around.
– Do gymnastic dexterity and flexibility help you in any way in everyday life?
– I hope. But how can they help really – only in falling gracefully on ice?! But I do catch dishes when they slip before they fall and break; I have a good reaction and coordination. I guess, it is inborn.
– So far, your sporting career has been a string of victories, but do you know how to lose?
– You should always learn a lesson from a loss. Naturally, I get upset but I realize that these are tiny alarms – I need to really work on myself. There are no victories without losses – this is absolute truth.
-But what helps you not to feel down in such situations?
– My coach and family drag me out of feeling down because they know I am a distinguished self-critic, I always say: “I have done the wrong thing, I have not been preparing the way I should have, I am this, I am that”. They always support me very much.
– Only the lazy do not tell anecdotes about rivalry among ballerinas (shredded glass in pointe shoes, trips, gossips). How do gymnasts get along?
– We have it a lot simpler. It happens sometimes that the girls fight, but most of the time, everyone focuses on the training and makes effort to be friendly, helps each other: somebody forgot to bring something or needs water – others are there to help.
– If gymnasts are always so happy to help, can you tell our readers how to make a split as easily as Kanaeva does it?
– Nothing happens without work. In addition to training in the gym, I also stretched at home in the mornings and evenings (I did not have supernatural abilities when it came to splits, so I had to make a lot of extra effort). Which is why my advice is probably expected and simple – work on it.
– Do you have a stage fright? There are always so many spectators…
– No. As a child, I naturally was nervous but never too much. As I became older, I started feeling more responsible and got nervous. I always laugh saying: “My mom is not going to love me less, so everything is ok”. Overall, I set myself mentally in a positive way: I have been training a lot, so there is simply no chance for me to perform poorly. My coaches also prepared me mentally.
– In your opinion, what should a performance be like, what do you focus on when preparing an exercise?
– It is important that it is emotional, unusual and unforgettable. We strive to create versatile performances: there are classical, lyrical and more rhythmical ones.
– There is a lot of sport in your life. But do you like active leisure?
– I love riding scooters, water bikes – I enjoy the sensation of speed, wind, freedom. I can swim. I don’t do roller skating or ride bike – extra injuries, why do I need those?
– What qualities have helped you achieve success?
– Ability to work hard. This one is probably most important.
“I’d like to learn to skate, ski, draw beautifully, play piano. I want so many things, the whole life would not be enough. In myself, I like my shins – they are the only thin part. My life motto is to enjoy every single thing.”
Beauty from Evgenia
1. There is no time for special routines. I don’t use any special beauty supplies: ordinary shower gel, body oil, Venus ProSkin Sensitive razor for my sensitive skin, sometimes I also use a hair mask. I do not frequently visit beauty salons: I come for a massage, mani-, padi-, and a haircut.
2. I experiment with clothes. I want to be versatile both in the sport, and in real life: from classics to a certain personal image. I do not always wear loud colors (red, pink, green), I like calmer colors (black, gray, beige).
3. I love dresses and stilettos, but oftentimes, pick shorts and a top for comfort –put them on and ready to go.
4. I try to wear makeup less frequently. Of course, it brings out the eyes, even out the skin tone, but I am confident, it is harmful to do it all the time.
Formula of Slimness from Kanaeva
– Less farinaceous food. I practically don’t eat breads and pastry, though sometimes I allow myself some cake. Then I get upset.
– Limit sweets. Body needs sugar for energy but not in large quantities. And of course, I don’t drink sugary beverages.
– Be reasonable. I absolutely love mandarins and chocolate, but I can’t eat them all the time, I have to limit myself. I look in the mirror, and the fat on my legs stops me; plus, I see my weight on the scale.
– Stay in shape. You have to love yourself, eat right (fresh foods, without preservatives; vegetables, fish), exercise, allow yourself time to relax and breathe fresh air; you don’t have to jog necessarily, a simple walk is always good.
information: on page 33, Zhenya is wearing Lublu dress (in Russian means I love) by Kira Plastinina; Jimmy Choo shoes, Longines watch, David Yurman earrings, and Pasquale Bruni ring. on page 35 she is wearing Au jour le jeor (not sure about the last word – really hard to see) dress, and Pasquale Bruni earrings