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"In general, an ordinary childhood" - interview with Vera Kolesnikova

Vera Kolesnikova, with her daughter, Viktoria, in 2005


Vera Kolesnikova became World Champion in artistic gymnastics with the Soviet Union team at the 1985 World Championships, and the next year became all around champion at the Goodwill Games, ahead of team mates Oksana Omelianchik and Elena Shushunova.  Today, Vera is known for her work as a coach and international judge.  She is also, far from incidentally, mother to 2011 World Uneven Bars Champion Viktoria Komova.  Viktoria is expected to fight for gold in the all around competition in a few days' time, at the London Olympics.

Russian Gymnastics sponsors VTB has published an interview with Vera, featuring some very sweet pictures of Viktoria as a little girl.  I have already featured these on this blog (see July 18th), but now Lupita has provided a complete English language translation of this interview which you can read below.

What are champions made of?  How are champions cut out?  Do champions have a childhood?  Nobody can answer better than their parents.  This is an interview with Viktoria Komova’s mother – Vera Kolesnikova.

– Vera Kolesnikova, your husband and yourself are Masters of Sport in Gymnastics. Did Vika have the chance to practice any other sport?

– I planned to have her practice gymnastics. I started to train children. I couldn’t leave Vika with anyone. I worked from 1 pm to 7 pm.

– Was your husband against Vika practicing gymnastics?

– He wasn’t against it; he didn’t like the idea of training camps.  I trusted my daughter to Gennady Elfimov [still Vika's personal coach to this day, he will be with her on the Olympic podium].  Very soon Vika had to train in other places.  In the end her father agreed.

- Tell me about her childhood. 

   Like any other child, we went to the park, walked in the street.  It was an ordinary childhood.  Before she went to school we took her to Children’s and Youth Palace where she learned to read, to write and to draw.  And, besides, she trained.       

- In one of your interviews you said that you plan the results for each season. 

– In any sports club there is a plan for each child.  For instance, they train for the district team, and they work to reach a result.  When she competed at the Russian Championship for the first time, her coach asked her:  “First, second or third?"  She answered: "First".  Then she competed at the European Championships. Again: "First".

– When did you understand that she took gymnastics seriously?

– When she started to compete, to perform and to win little by little. Every year her programme was upgraded until she competed at the Russian Championship.

– How do you realize that a kid becomes a good athlete?

– I think it’s about genes, because my husband and I were gymnasts. I’ve been working in gymnastics for a long time and it’s easy to find children whose parents have practiced sport: acrobatics, boxing.

– How does the character of an athlete build up?

– Viktoria has a strong character, she learns elements very quickly but she’s unable to polish them. She is very gifted for gymnastics and she can learn an element in a week or two. I cannot say that she has an easy character. She is cross when she cannot achieve something.

– Which victory do you remember in particular?
Viktoria Komova competes on beam, late last year

– The Youth Olympics. They were publicized because they took place for the first time.  Two months before, she had performed at the European Junior Championships.  She won many gold medals there, but nobody said anything. In Singapore [venue of the Youth Olympic Games which Viktoria won] there were TV and the press.

– Is it tough?

– Very much.  They invite her, they want interviews.  I tell them to come together.  They refuse. Viktoria is in tears: “They all ask the same questions!”

– Over the past years did you ever want to convince Vika to quit?

– Viktoria devoted so many years to gymnastics...  If we quit, what’s she going to do?  She has to finish school and go to university.
  
– What does she like apart from gymnastics? 

- She draws sometimes, she likes computers, sewing, cross-stitching.  She reads sometimes.  She is often very tired.  Sometimes we ask her if we will talk through Skype but she says she’s going to bed.  She has no time.

- Do you often see her at Krugloye [Lake Krugloye or Round Lake, the Russian National Training Centre for Gymnastics]?  

– We don’t see her.  Sometimes we pass each other at a competition.  Her father hasn’t seen her for a long time.  For me, it’s easier, when I go to a tournament, I call at Krugloye. 

– How do you treat Vika when she is at home?

– Pizza, that she cooks. When she stays at home for two or three days, that’s our speciality.  I try to cook it because my children like it.  But when I have no time, she says: “Do the dough and I’ll prepare the pizza". 

Picture of Kolesnikova with the young Komova, courtesy of VTB/Komova family
Picture of Komova, courtesy of the RGF.

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