Evgenia Startseva: ''If a man has a desire to win a heart, he will do his best''

Captain of women's volleyball team Dinamo-Kazan Evgenia Startseva has been playing in Kazan for 5 years. The world champion became the leader after the departure of Ekaterina Gamova and is handling it great. Realnoe Vremya's exclusive interview tells how it is to be a captain, whom she supports in Kazan and whether men can try to win the heart of the beauty.

''It is impossible to substitute Katia''

So, let's start right with the last match. Tell us what happened in the first two sets? It seemed you did not switch directly from the celebration of your birthday.

No, actually we did not celebrate my birthday. We prepared for the game. As for the game, unfortunately, sometimes we start relaxed. Then we understood there was no choice and started to play. When we turned our game on, everything was fine in general. It is only our mistake: we allowed it and we fixed it.

So does it have nothing to do with your birthday? Did you have a regime?

No, no way (laughing), we had a regime, of course.

When I was preparing for the interview, I saw your photos of the first season at Dinamo-Kazan. I am looking at you now and see no difference. You have not changed for five years at all. What is your secret? Are there any diets?

We have a cryosauna here. We live with it (laughing). Actually there is no secret – I don't have any diet. On the contrary, all people try to feed me, but they don't succeed much, so they say I am a witch. In general, I eat everything. Within limits, of course: I don't buy harmful food as chips. I can try them somewhere, but I don't buy them. I will rather drink a water, compote or something else beneficial.

How is it to live without Katia Gamova? It seems that the team has not recovered after her departure yet. You won the Russian Cup, but not everything is fine in the championship.

For me, bad (laughing). Speaking of Katia Gamova, it is impossible to substitute such players as much as we would want. It is a big loss for any team including us she left because simply there are not such players. Of course, we look for any links closer to the end of the season. We maybe succeed somewhere, but anyway it is impossible to substitute Katia.

''Teams stop existing every year in the country. It is a pity that it happens to our volleyball''

When Gamova was ending her career, she told a story that she joined Dinamo-Kazan due to a playful talk with Rishat Gilyazutdinov when she was in the national team. How did you move to Kazan?

Sergey Chernyshev (Editor's Note: the club's director) started to invite me to Kazan one year before, that is to say, in 2011. But I understood what a team was here, what goals and tasks they had. And I said to him directly: ''Sergey Nikolaevich, I am not ready yet, it is better to come next year.'' He answered: ''No problem if it is your decision.'' Next year I had a call and I agreed.

Were not you ready? At that moment, you already were a world champion and the best setter of the 2011 Grand Prix European qualifier.

I don't know, for some reason, Dinamo seemed to me a summit I was not prepared for. This is why I asked for a year.

''It is impossible to substitute such players as much as we would want. <...> Of course, we look for any links closer to the end of the season. We maybe succeed somewhere, but anyway it is impossible to substitute Katia.'' Photo: dinamo-kazan.com

Did you manage to gain shape within a year and raise the bar to the level of Dinamo?

On the contrary, it was the worst year. I was operated at the beginning of the season, I was away for the whole season. This is why it is good I had not moved to Dinamo to some degree. There would be other tasks here, I would fail the team. In addition, it turned out that I failed Dinamo-Krasnodar. They treated me together with the federation, and then I came to Kazan.

Let's go back to the past. How did you appear in volleyball? Was it your decision?

I had a usual school. When I was in the first grade, a coach was looking for tall girls in all classes. We were two in the class, and we were given notes for our parents with a message: ''We invite your kid to play volleyball.'' My mum sent me there, I played once a week, I shot a ball. It was a usual class for kids. This is how it began. I went to sports school when I was in the fifth grade.

Did volleyball leave space for childhood? Did you have the time to play hopscotch, Barbie, watch cartoons?

At first we played once or twice a week, I was 7. So volleyball did not take much time. Less time left from 10-11 years when I went to a sports school. There was training at 7.45 in the morning, we went to school after training, studied and trained at 6 in the evening. It was about 9 o'clock when we finished training and went home, which was in another part of the city. I did homework and went to sleep. Aged 12, I had other things to do except Barbie. And I did not love cartoons much.

What did your parents say when they sent you to Krasnodar?

Nothing special, they just sent me, that's it.

So was not there any joy or discontent that you decided to connect your life with volleyball?

They did not understand it at that moment. When I was younger, they did not understand at all that I would play as a professional. My mum thought I just played volleyball. Naturally, when I became older, they understood it was my job, this is why they were cool with it. Now they are happy that I have a job and I like it. They are proud of me.

As for Dinamo-Krasnodar. It is not a strange team for you. What do you think about the situation? Do you keep in touch with local girls?

We talk to the girls, they speak out something. They were here recently. In general, I am hurt for the girls because I understand what a situation they are in. 10 months without certainty is too long. It is a real problem for players. I am hurt a lot that the team can disappear. Teams stop existing every year in the country. It is whether a crisis or something else. It is a pity that our championship becomes poor. If earlier there were 12 teams, they were eliminated, then they were back, now everything is different. It is a pity that it happens to our volleyball.

''Kazan is my home''

There is a usual stereotype that Chelyabinsk and its residents are severe. Do you have this severe Ural character?

I think, yes, because I lived there for 22 years. I can't say I grew up in some severe conditions. But we had a strict coach in school, feisty Lyudmila Sukhova. Probably I got something from her.

Do you miss your home?

I miss my relatives. Perhaps I got unaccustomed because I have been living in another place for 7 years. Of course, I have a house there where I feel comfortable. But I don't miss the city in general.

Have you already ''put down roots'' in Kazan? Do you eat as many chak-chaks and ochmochmaks as you can?

No, I don't buy them already, it's over (laughing). I ate enough during my first year. Now I am only asked to bring something to Moscow. Now we were in Moscow, I brought three chak-chaks.

''Professionals created my hairstyle, of course. They rolled something for a long time, used a spray. I am unlikely to make something like this. You can see me in a dress with makeup. It is my dress, by the way, from my personal wardrobe. So you can also see me in a dress.''

Can you already say that Kazan is your native city? Is a place where you go back like home?

Yes, now I can say so. I have been living here for 5 years. So I feel that my home is here. I don't know what will happen then, whether I will stay here or go to Chelyabinsk. But now I feel comfortable here and I make myself at home.

I noted a long time ago that volleyball players wear tracksuits even in shopping malls. What clothes do you wear? Can we see you in this style in parties?

Yes, you can, of course. Professionals created my hairstyle, of course. They rolled something for a long time, used a spray. I am unlikely to make something like this. You can see me in a dress with makeup. It is my dress, by the way, from my personal wardrobe. So you can also see me in a dress.

What clothes do you wear in shopping malls and streets? Do you wear famous labels?

Of course, if I go to train or play away, I prefer sports style because it is comfortable for training. If I go out, I wear minimum jeans and maximum dresses, skirts, heels and hairstyles, makeup – I have it all.

So you like shopping, right?

I do. My drawers are full at home. If we have an opportunity, for example, when we go to Europe after a match or one day before, we can go to the city and do shopping. We can also do it in Russia when we have a camp in Moscow in summer. In addition, nowadays there are many shops and online shops.

''Even Ruki Vverkh plays at times in the changing room''

Why do you wear the No. 13 T-shirt? Superstitious people don't like this number.

I was given it in the national team 8 years ago. Then there was an opportunity to change it, but I did not want. I decided it was my number. It means I am not superstitious.

Do you like the role of captain?

In general, it's fine (laughing). It has not been the first time when I am chosen as a captain – I was the captain in all teams where I played – in Chelyabinsk Avtodor and Dinamo-Krasnodar. Here I became the captain having played for four years. It is a responsibility of another level, of course. But I can't say that something changed on the court. I always try showing leadership qualities and pull the team forward, of course.

Captain usually demonstrates his or her qualities in the changing room. Can you come once and shout at somebody ''What are you doing?''

No, we don't have such squabbles. Everything remains on the court. In the changing room, we solve only organisational issues.

Judging by videos, you are always positive there, there are some flashmobs, Mannequin Challenge.

Yes (laughing). Girls – Zaryazhko, Biryukova, Elitsa (Editor's Note: Vasilieva) – dance more. They usually motivate to dance, and we support them. We always laugh at them. Music always plays in the changing room.

What kind of music? Is not it à la Ruki Vverkh I hope?

Different music, even Ruki Vverkh plays at times. You should not speak about them so.

Who is the major DJ?

Olga Biryukova usually turns music on as well as Elitsa.

''It has not been the first time when I am chosen as a captain – I was the captain in all teams where I played.'' Photo: kazan.aif.ru

''Mum, it is dangerous to support Traktor, we are in another sector''

You visited the match of UNICS against Panathinaikos just before New Year. Do you often support other Kazan teams?

I can't say I do it often. If there is an opportunity, I go. After New Year we went to hockey with the team, there was a match against Traktor, my compatriots. I go sometimes if only it is a day off.

Did you support you compatriots in that match?

I was with my parents, I supported Ak Bars, while my mum was for Traktor (laughing). I said: ''Mum, it is dangerous to support Traktor, we are in another sector.'' In brief, my parents came for New Year and went to support Chelyabinsk. I supported Ak Bars.

Is not there any personal friendship with athletes from Kazan teams, or do you go as a fan?

We meet somewhere at times, but I go just to support. I buy tickets on the Internet and go.

But you always go to support Zenit. Is it a compulsory ceremony or your personal choice?

It is personal, of course. Moreover, we train in one volleyball centre. For example, there is a game in the big hall, and we come from the small one after training. It is interesting from a professional perspective, especially when Champions League teams come.

Of course, there are uninteresting games when Zenit plays with very weak rivals. They just kill them, there is no interest there.

What kind of interest do you mean? The team has played over 20 matches without any defeat.

Such matches as Dynamo-Moscow or Belgorod. Even if they won, there were interesting matches like in the Champions League.

Zenit is in the Champions League. You are out. How do you live without it?

Bad because the level of CEV Cup is not similar to that of the Champions League. I understand that we will have more serious rivals. But at the moment the difference is big. We would like to win the league and go to the Club World Championship.

How do you spend your days off except visiting sports events?

I like to go to the cinema and meet with my friends. The most important thing on my day off is that I like to get enough sleep.

Did you celebrate New Year with your parents in Kazan?

Yes, my parents, sister, nephew, even my dog came.

''Quarterfinal is a failure for the national team in Rio''

Why don't you want to go to Europe? For instance, Italy also has a strong championship.

The thing is not that I don't want, I just have never had such a goal. I have a job in Russia, at a good club. I am fine in my homeland. Maybe if I felt bad in the team, I would consider other options. I have been playing for Kazan for 5 years because I feel comfortable here.

''The result shows how they competed. To lose in the quarterfinal is not the result that the national team of Russia should show.'' Photo: gamova.org

You have your own fan group on Vk.com. You became even an admin. Do you read what people write about you?

Yes, sometimes I visit it to have a look and read. I even feel shame because I visited the group on my birthday and look through videos with congratulations. But I did not have the time to watch and answer. I usually answer.

What do you think about our national team in the Olympics in Rio?

The result shows how they competed. To lose in the quarterfinal is not the result that the national team of Russia should show.

So is it a failure?

It is. This kind of failure took place in London when I participated. The national team of Russia must be in the semi-final, it is 100%. Or in the final. It is the Olympic Games, but it must be in the top 3.

''If a man has a desire to win a heart, he will do his best''

And here is a question that is of concern to many people according to browsers. The answer to it is a top secret. It is your personal life.

I always say one and the same thing.

Maybe you will decide to reveal the secret this time.

(Laughing). If I tell everything now, it won't be personal any more.

Just give an answer, do you have it or not? So men will know whether they can win your heart or not.

I will say it to you the following way. If a man has a desire to win a heart, he will do his best.

What will the existing man do?

Let him keep strong! (Laughing).

In conclusion, your address to the fans.

Thank you for being. Good fans, those who are always with us are a rare thing. I hear a lot of negative opinions, I don't consider them fans. When a team is fine, they are like fans, when it is not, they start insulting. I am thankful to those who are always with us. We appreciate and really love you. I wish both you and us victories!

By Erik Dobrolyubov
Sports