English translated by Ekaterina, Big Big Thanks!!!
Q: Zhenya, you are a two-time Olympic champion, and in December last year you announced you wanted to end your sporting career. It would be truly surprising if you haven’t been invited to take part in the Universiade . You are only 23 years old…?
Zhenya: First of all, I never announced I had ended my career. Everyone except me was saying that and probably making this decision for me as well. At this time, I have taken a break and have not said anything final, especially to the press. As for invitations to compete, everyone has left me alone for the time being because I have endured a lot throughout my career: there have been a lot of competitions and I have received multiple injuries, and of course there is exhaustion.
Q: Do I understand correctly that theoretically we can expect to see you at 2016 Olympics in Rio? Would you like that?
Zhenya: We’ll see because it is hard to say. Sport is unpredictable, you often can’t say what is going to happen tomorrow. The major factor is a good health.
Q: You know, Russian national team has been showing simply incredible results at this Universiade; it seems we have won a million medals already and broken all possible records. What is your opinion about such an issue, that oftentimes, those athletes that compete for Russia here are not so much into studying but more into professional sports. For example, Elena Vesnina is playing tennis, and a number of Olympic champions are competing as well.
Zhenya: It’s just I don’t know that girl. I know that our strongest athletes have been competed at many Universiades in Rhythmic Gymnastics, I cannot really speak for other sports. But based on what has been happening in Kazan, every Federation has done its best to put forward their strongest teams because it is happening in Russia, it is a celebration for Russia.
Q: But doesn’t it feel like some sort of cheating?
Zhenya: Why cheating? First of all, everyone goes to school. When it comes to RG, I can say that there is no distinction and everyone is in the same position; it is not as if some focus on studying, while others on actually competing. Yes, it is true that the strongest athletes on our team focus a lot more on the sport than on studying but they attend classes, and do their best to combine everything.
Q: I am thinking about the campus of Moscow State University as an example; nobody is actually so much focused on sports there. I don’t think that our accomplishments and achievements at this Universiade accurately reflect the level of development of student sports in Russia. What do you think?
Zhenya: I think it has been rapidly developing in the past few years. And it is great because I believe that everyone should be active and do sports, whether at a competitive or amateur level. Everyone should be energetic and inspire each other.
Q: After you have gone on a so called break, do you continue to exercise?
Zhenya: Of course, I do everything that does not hurt.
Q: Not long ago, you have become a Vice-President of RRGF. Please tell us about your responsibilities and duties.
Zhenya: There are 8 vice-presidents, and we attend competitions and select young girls for the national team. Essentially, it is attending competitions.
Q: RG seems to be the only sport in the country that we do not have to worry about. We are far ahead of everybody else.
Zhenya: Everyone has got so used to that: another victory in RG, well, no surprise here. But in actuality it is an extremely hard work, fantastic system. We have incredible training conditions, thanks to Irina Aleksandrovna Viner, who has been doing anything and everything possible so that we would compete at the highest level. So we experience shame when something does not work out. It is hard not to win working in such conditions and with such coaches and mentors.
Q: What can other federations learn from RG federation so we could have the same results in other sports?
Zhenya: For example, Irina Aleksandrovna Viner has such a great quality: she invites gymnasts and their coaches together. If a gymnast is showing something special, IA takes in the coach as well.
Q: That was what happened to you.
Zhenya: Yes. There are a lot of trainers, professionals currently in our national team, so IA is learning from them as well as they are learning from her. So there is constant development, constant improvement. I think one needs to be constantly growing without every holding your head to high. And by that I mean getting star fever. One needs to be humble and work hard, then everything will happen.
Q: Has there ever been a point in your career when you wanted to hold your head high? I mean after two Olympic medals and all?
Zhenya: No, I never even thought about that. I don’t think it’s right: everyone had worked so hard, independent of the result. So one should be ashamed to act like that.
Q: They are always criticizing our football players because they tend to have star fever, make a lot of money, train less and don’t show anywhere near as impressive results as we see in RG. Can you name some of the celebrity athletes that you had a chance to get in contact with?
Zhenya: I did not have a chance to communicate with football players but I can only say one thing. They also work hard, and it is not an easy sport. As for whether or not they have star fever, it depends on a specific person, whether they let themselves loosen up like that or if they’ve got enough upbringing and are smart enough to act decently. So it would not be right and fair to discuss them as a bunch.
Q: You have recently got married. Congratulations!
Zhenya: Thank you!
Q: How can a professional athlete combine a married life with her mentality, her character?
Zhenya: I can honestly say that if one trains like we do, 10 hours a day, it is practically impossible. But it just so happened in my life, that we met when I was undergoing treatment. It was totally unplanned because I had always been focused solely on my career. But in our sport, it is extremely hard to combine family life with a life of professional gymnast.
Q: You just fell in love.
Q: Last question. What are your thoughts about the Universiade, the atmosphere? I know you only arrived yesterday. Did you expect it to be so incredible here?
Zhenya: Frankly speaking, yes, I expected that from Kazan. I have been here many times before. My first Russian championship took place here in 2005, when I was so little yet. So Kazan is one of my favorite places in Russia. What they have done here is a colossal amount of work: everything is so clean, so well-organized, and everyone is so kind – people, volunteers…
Q: Aren’t you a 10-time Universiade winner?
Zhenya: I don’t think so.. I don’t really remember (laughing). No, I think it’s 9-time.
Q: How significant is it for an athlete to win here?
Zhenya: I think it is important for every athlete to win, and every athlete works for that. This is a major competition, Universiade is compared to Olympics because it has similar system including all sports. So every normal athlete would only aim at the victory going into the competition.
Q: Big thanks, Zhenya!