Posted on http://rsport.ru/interview/20130307/649477066.html on 07-03-2013
Originally written in Russian by Veronica Stolbunova
English edition translated and edited by catts, Many Many Thanks catts
The Head of Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, the chief national trainer Irina Viner, told Veronica Stolbunova of the agency “R-Sport” about her initial encounter with the two-time Olympic champion Evgenia Kanaeva, her life outside of sport and her own relationship with the gymnast.
Kanaeva was not especially shiny
Q: Irina, do you remember the first time you met Zhenya?
A: Zhenya was a very humble girl. And her second coach Vera Efremovna Shtelbaums, at that time, was working with Irina Tchachina in Novogorsk. Amina Zaripova watched this girl in a competition and asked her to come to train in the Olympic Village of Udaltsov in Moscow, so that she could be closer to the trainer (Shtelbaums). I resolved, and Zhenya came and received training. She sometimes came to Novogorsk and trained there. She was a good girl, but was not especially shiny. But over time, this girl had done it all by herself, of course, with the help of a trainer and all conditions that were created for her. Her main quality is the ability to work very long and hard. From the moment she came to Moscow, she had walked slowly and steadily toward that goal – which was to become the two-time Olympic champion in the individual program, the first person to have achieved it in the history of rhythmic gymnastics.
I remember when she was invited by some girls to take a break in a cottage in Moscow, in the morning of a day-off, instead of sleeping like the rest of the girls, she woke up and trained. For her parents, it was a surprise because a young girl, instead of enjoying a vacation with friends on a weekend, devoted time to training. Here is an episode which characterizes her throughout.
Q: When did you, as a trainer, become aware of the enormous potential in Zhenya ? Because, at that time, she had some serious competitors, such as Alina Kabaeva and Vera Sesina.
A: Her self-criticism and continual improvement had just given her the opportunity to reach such a high level.
Q: And could you see the potential in her at the initial encounter?
A: Of course. When such a person comes, who tries so hard, and so wants to listen to the comments and advice of everyone, who treats everyone around her with pleasure but not critically, is a very noble girl. So right from the beginning I was sure that this girl would go far. She was not even a member of the national team, not even in the junior team, but already trained in Novogorsk.
Q: If I am not mistaken, the first start of Zhenya’s career was at the European Championships in Baku in 2007, for which she went only because of the injury of Alina Kabaeva. How, in your opinion, did it reflect in her career? If it was not because of the injury of Alina, when would you have entrusted her a serious start?
A: Yes, that is right. It was her first start. There is no certainty in what may or may not happen according to what you know. In life nothing is accidental. That means, that happened as it was supposed to. This is all normal.
There was no life outside sport
Q: What was Zhenya like when she was not doing RG, the time when she did not think of winning competition?
A: She had no life outside RG. It was only just before the Olympics in London that she met her love, as we now know. She met her love in the hospital, where she was treated, and he, too, was treated there. He did not know that she was Evgenia Kanaeva, and she was in her sporting clothes, but it so happened that they met, fell in love, and she began a personal life.
Q: How easy or, perhaps, on the contrary, complex to approach her as a trainer and as a person?
A: It is very easy to approach Zhenya. She is very receptive, grateful, and if she sees the points of what she is being told, she is always happy to accept it.
Q: Has there been any moment when it was necessary to scream?
A: What for? I had never raised my voice at her, and as far as I know, Vera Efremovna also had not raised her voice at her, because she did everything correctly.
Q: And could Zhenya object the trainers and express her opinions?
A: We have a work system in which everyone always express their opinions.
Q: Has Zhenya come to you not for sporting advice but for personal matters?
A: This girl is very modest and reserved and has never publicized her life, especially because there was no personal life. And when she met the man with whom she has a 99.9% chance of developing a wonderful family life, she did not advertise to anyone, neither the Federation nor the trainers. At the moment, she has become who she was not, and even openly talks with the journalists about herself.
Q: Zhenya herself said in an interview with our agency that now she is eager to become a mother. Do you think that after giving birth, she is able to return to sport?
A: I have nothing to anticipate, and live for today. I would love to continue to work with her and meet her in the national team.
Q: What sports resource is with Zhenya? I remember you said that Alina Kabaeva can keep doing gymnastics till the time when she will draw her pensions …
A: Zhenya has a lot of potential, namely, moral and volitional. If she wants to change her mind and carries on doing what she has been doing for another eight years, all will go well. Another question is whether she can now commit her life to sport as she wants to.
Q: Did Zhenya consult you personally before deciding to take a break in her career?
A: No, she herself revealed it. She said she needed to heal the injury, which was true. Moreover, we understand each other perfectly, even just by looking at the eyes. We do not need such discussion. There is a mutual understanding between us.