Maria Malygina: ''I believe I will go to the Olympics. Probably even to Tokyo''

In an exclusive interview with Realnoe Vremya, queen of racket and shuttlecock and leader of the Tatarstan team tells about sport and herself

Maria Malygina: ''I believe I will go to the Olympics. Probably even to Tokyo'' Photo: Shamil Mullakhmetov

Next mass competition– Badminton Championships of Russia – ended recently in Kazan. We talked to the most successful young badminton player from Tatarstan, the only representative of the republic on the podium Maria Malygina after the end.

''I never took my cue from the crowd''

Probably the question is banal, but I can't help but ask it. How long have you been playing badminton? Why did choose this sport?

I have been playing for almost 9 years, since the first grade. In the first grade, we had a PE class. We were offered to do different sports to make the process more interesting. All popular classes like gymnastics, football, basketball, volleyball were full. Few people wanted to play badminton. I never took my cue from the crowd and decided to try.

Did you understand that it was a thing that you would tie your life with?

No, of course. My parents supported me, but I did not achieve great success at first. To tell the truth, it was tough. I wanted to give up sometimes. My potential was noticed in the fifth grade. I was invited to urban and then regional competitions. I had a result. I was first in the city. Then I started to be in the top 30, 20 in Russian competitions. Then people started to talk about me. I myself began to think about a professional career.

What was your greatest sports achievement at the moment?

As strange it might sound, team and doubles competition was the most important tournament for me despite personal victories. This is why last year's bronze in doubles in the Russian Junior Championships has an especial value for me.

As strange it might sound, team and doubles competition was the most important tournament for me despite personal victories

''I could not participate in Europe because of my age''

What are the saddest moments in sport you had?

Probably they have nothing to do with sport, though… In February, we had European Junior Championships in Kazan. I could not participate there because of my age. I lacked days, months. I looked at my friends and envied them. It was friendly envy, of course, I wanted them to win. Athletes born in 2001 competed there, while I was born in 2000, according to all documents. Sport doesn't have details, I make sure of it again.

What can you say about your performance in the Championships of Russia at home?

Not bad, it could be better, of course. I am ready to play in singles and doubles. I can play better. This is why I am ready to go and win. The sky is the limit. In the semi-final, we were taking the lead but were defeated in the third set and lost only 19 points against Vladivostok. We should have played in the final, we could have won the final. But it is late to say something. I will be waiting for new competitions.

But the podium guaranteed you and your partner in doubles a seat in the national team of Russia in European and world competitions. Isn't it success?

Of course, it is. But it is not the end of the work. One can be number 1 ranked badminton player in singles or doubles. One can be in reserve and train at the base in Novogorsk or Krugly. Sure, I understand what an honour and responsibility it is. It is an honour for me to play for Tatarstan. I respect my homeland and love it with all my heart.

''Our coaches are not monsters''

You are 17. You want fun, joy, freedom, but you have competitions, away matches, camps, training. Is it difficult to live with such a schedule?

There is time for everything. It depends on how you plan everything. I have been living this way for a long time and got used to it like my friends in the squad. For us, it is a norm. We don't know another life. On the contrary, I don't know how to live without training on holiday. This is why I don't like holidays, to switch from one schedule to another, then again, be in shape and get prepared physically. It is better to follow the usual way of life. Moreover, I do have free time. Our coaches are not monsters and understand we are still children and we want to develop except sport. We train every day. But there are ''free'' days when we have only one or two training sessions. We go to the cinema, go for a walk on that days. I like to go to the theatre. So I have the time for both sport and myself.

''I don't know how to live without training on holiday. This is why I don't like holidays, to switch from one schedule to another, then again, be in shape and get prepared physically. It is better to follow the usual way of life.'' Photo: by Maria Malygina

What about education and school, state exams?

I am for self-education. I like to read good literature both non-fiction and scientific. Schoolbooks don't have a half of them. The most important thing is that they don't have things that we should really know, that can come in handy in life. I don't attend any special courses. I study in a usual school. I attend lessons, though not always. In general, my studies are fine! I am in the 10 th grade. All people support me at school but sometimes make spiteful remarks: ''Back from competitions? When is your next camp? Again two weeks? Maria, are you going to attend my lessons in this term?'' I don't have C's but do one or two B's.

''I believe I will go to the Olympics''

Why did not you go to the sports academy?

In my opinion, it is easier to combine sport and school in a general education school. At least, it is a real school. I don't want to be just an athlete. I want to develop in all aspects. One can't help but have education nowadays. I can easily pass state exams, enter a good university or college. What will people do after sports boarding school, especially if you don't have good results in sport? Yes, nothing.

What about our Volga Academy of Physical Culture, Sport and Tourism?

I will go there when I graduate from the school and pass my final exams. My first education will be in Physical Culture. I will be a coach and coach girls like me. Then I will think. Maybe I will get a second university degree that is not connected with sport. Life will say.

Does it mean that at the moment you consider yourself as a professional badminton player?

Yes, it is my dream. I started this road a long time ago and I am doing my best. I hope everything will be fine.

What targets do you set in professional sport?

I believe I will go to the Olympics. Probably even to Tokyo. I won't just go there, I want to win. I want to hear the national anthem, to see the flag be raised and be given a gold medal. I think every athlete dreams about it. Why should they do sport then? People must set the highest goals and move towards them, not only in sport. I believe that you are the main obstacle in life. Only we restrict ourselves.

What about the hegemony of China and Korea? Our athletes rarely win against eastern athletes.

So we will be the first to stop them. Somebody must stop them. Nobody can always win.

Apart from badminton, what other sports do you like? Do you watch anything?

Yes, to some degree. Football, hockey. Sometimes we play them, train in school, at the base as an additional activity. I watch only big competitions. Anyway, badminton is in my heart.

Not the quantity of friends but their quality, your relations with them is the most important thing. If I make a friend, the friendship will be lasting and serious. It is a real friendship.

Who is your idol in badminton and in general?

They are mainly foreigners. At world stages, I follow Lee Chong Wei, Jorgensen, Carolina Marin, Peterson from Denmark. My style is similar to their style, or vice versa (laughing). I like their game very much. I try learning from them and achieve such success.

Won't you mention Russian players?

I will, of course. Evgenia Kasetskaya. She trains with us. I constantly see and observe her. She is a repeated champion of Russia, world and European medallist. I like her game very much. Anatoly Yartsev. He is young but achieved a lot.

Do you envy celebrated athletes when you watch world and European championships?

I don't envy. I just want to become like them. I want to win in the world, travel. I need to work a lot. I understand it and do my best.

You don't give interviews, avoid photojournalists and TV cameras. You are not an easy-goinggirl. Is it fear, lack of confidence, shyness?

Yes, I am very shy. But shyness is not a defect. Shyness makes a person beautiful. At the same time I am friendly and easy-going. Not the quantity of friends but their quality, your relations with them is the most important thing. If I make a friend, the friendship will be lasting and serious. It is a real friendship.

By Rustam Imamov. Photo: Shamil Mullakhmetov
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