As always, disclaimers - Russian is not my first (or even second) language, and I make no claims of fluency. As such, I can’t guarantee the translation is 100% accurate. It’s for fun and for interest only. There are also parts where I paraphrased because Russian doesn’t always translate well to English in a literal sense. If you speak Russian better than I do, and want to offer any corrections, please feel free. :) And a big thank you to cpt13hook for the correction on the Nastya Grishina interview.
Anyway, I think this is a really interesting interview.
Before the competition, which foreign gymnasts did you see as your main rivals?
The Americans - Wieber and Raisman.
Douglas was not on your radar?
I really didn’t expect her to make so much progress. She was also at the World Championships in 2011 - nothing special. It was hard to imagine that she’d win the gold in London.
Did the Olympic Games stir up many emotions and bring forward anything new?
You know, competing anywhere is equally hard and winning is always nice. There was just more hype around the London Olympics.
I remember even before your big victories, your personal coach Gennady Elfimov spoke to my colleague about your training process. (He said:) ” We do not work, we play. We play to make things happen. After all, this is interesting - to achieve an element in such a way that it comes out difficult and beautiful”.
Probably, it was like that some time ago. But training now - it’s more work. As such, I relate to it differently- I’ve become more conscious. But the conditioning, I never liked and I still don’t like. To love climbing the rope just doesn’t happen. However, everything has to be overcome. The difficult elements don’t just have to be learned, but also made cleanly. There are many rivals, and they won’t be any less. So there’s a reason for us to work and we’ll climb when it’s necessary.
- In London, you and the girls team won a medal. Not in vain then, that you guys even ate dinners together?
We truly get along and support each other in everything. And we went to breakfast and dinner together. During the period leading up to the games, we pushed two tables together so that we were all sitting at the same table. We had wanted a big table for a long time but we always had to be separated. Apparently right before the games it was finally time. We always sat together talking and laughing for a long time. And guess what? We covered so little. You know, we merely discussed one critical remark from a coach or how something happened in training and an hour went by. Or who managed what combinations… this is also not a short conversation. My best friend is Maria Paseka. She is always very cheerful and positive. In London, I spent all my free time with her.
That was not enough for gold?
I said before the games that all we had to do was work and go out and compete with confidence. That we were ready, and were worthy of being in first.
We hear more and more about you have changed, matured….
I think something really happened to me after the World Championships - the struggle with the judging. I grew up internally in some way. I even began to see gymnastics differently.
We will not ask about the Olympic games where you so bitterly repented for your mistakes in front of the entire world. Tell me, the week after the World Championships in Tokyo, did you consider and succumb to the public opinion, including all those who thought the judges gave you scores that were too low and selected the American as All Around Champion, or did you continue to reproach yourself?
I reproached myself. Why place the blame on somebody else? I made an error, and the judges seized on it.
You coach Elfimov had the same philosophy during and after Tokyo: You just have to work cleanly, and everything will be fine. Yet he doesn’t conceal the fact that you were judged as you should have been while the American was overscored. This reality was a small consolation?
No. After all I allowed myself to bounce out of landings. I vaulted my double, because I wasn’t used to the podium and hadn’t performed some elements. First things first, you have to look at yourself.
I keep coming back to London. The competition seemed to go on for so long - you really came into the individual All Around to become first?
Yes, everything was real and somewhere, something happened. I suppose I understood this but the moments before the the scores were announced seemed so long. I kept waiting (thinking)- what if the score which I need suddenly appears on the scoreboard? Of course, it turned out I got the silver. I didn’t go to the Olympic games for silver. Of course, I always have to fight. Fight until the end. Don’t ever give up - no matter how bad things seem, you might succeed. Hang on until the end, and don’t unnecessarily make up your mind that it’s over. I gave up the victory right at the start - on the vault. At that moment I was not upset - quite the opposite, I felt angry. I feel most nervous about the exercises on the beam. Here, I’m not sure of the reasons for the mistakes…… I had very sore feet and when training the dismount, I was not allowed to land heavily on the knees, which I was mindful of. In general, I’m forbidden from landing in a low squat. So what can I say now? On the next event, I tried. I really, really hard but it was not quite enough.
Two silver medals, which was like you said, not the colour medal you set your heart on….
Later, I cooled down a little bit. It was just so very disappointing….
(The two medals) can be compared?
I am happier with the team medal . Because, as an individual, I made mistakes and I could have done better, where to come in second as a team was the best we could have achieved. It was simply not realistic for us to beat the Americans in London. But in the All-Around, I could have done it. On the qualification day I was in first place. However, everything happened as it did.
I want to ask you an unusual question, and it will be up to you to respond for your generation. According to the senior coach, your generation is different because you allow yourselves to be rude to your coaches.
Sure, it happens sometimes. Because your nerves are stressed to their limits. The coach makes a comment, and you fire back. You start bickering, however, you calm down quickly and get back to work.
I hope with this emotions you remain civilized. Be straight - do you allow yourself to snap?
Well yes. But now I don’t, and I will not anymore. Even in the period immediately before the Olympic games it almost disappeared. Because everyone understood that it was necessary to just shut up and get to work.
And now, time for conclusions. What are they Vika?
The same as always - go out and fight, never give up, and above all, I don’t need to worry so much. In the beginning of competition I came out without worrying and just competed, calmly. In beam finals, I was trembling so much that I fell twice. Maybe because it all happened so quickly, and I so wanted to be on the podium. I definitely get more nervous for individual event finals than for All Around competition. But you just have to remember to go out and do everything you have trained. After the Olympics I met with Svetlana Khorkina and she told me “Don’t cry, it will all come for you”.
Will these lessons be useful for the next Olympics in 2016.
Yes, I must go there clearly for gold medals.
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