Daria Shkurikhina: ‘The most important thing is to educate beautiful, healthy girls, victories and medals are less important’

Olympic and world champion about herself, her life and the future of rhythmic gymnastics of Russia

Russian rhythmic gymnastics tournament for Olympic champion Daria Shkurikhina's prizes called At the Top of Success took place in Kazan. Daria is the image of the competitions and their major organiser. She chose Kazan for a reason – Daria comes from the capital of our republic. She spent her first sports years here. She has little time in her tight schedule to talk to her small motherland. This is why we could not miss the opportunity to talk to the famous compatriot. Realnoe Vremya's sports staff presents an exclusive interview.

'I love Kazan very much. It is my native city'

How do you manage to do everything? How are not you tired of such a big amount of events?

I constantly travel across the country. I am invited to training and training camps from Moscow to Kamchatka. I have things to do every day. I do sport every day because sport is life for me. They learn something new from me, adopt experience. I learn something from them. I got used to kids so much that I decided to open my school and organise competitions.

But you are not an invited guest here because you are the organiser. It is difficult to organise so big competitions on your own. Girls from all Russia came…

The Government of Tatarstan and Gymnastics Centre are helping me to organise this tournament. I am the image and managing director of the competitions. They have been held for the first time. It is my first competition of this kind. But I plan to make it annual.

Was it important for you to hold the competitions in Kazan?

I love Kazan very much. It is my native city. I wanted to organise this tournament during eight years. Something always impeded me from doing it. Finally, I manned up and did it. I believe that starlets who will become the world and Olympic champions participated here. It is impossible to tell about yourself without such competitions.

'I love Kazan very much. It is my native city. I wanted to organise this tournament during eight years. Something always impeded me from doing it. Finally, I manned up and did it.' Photo: akgym.ru

Now we are talking in a new sports centre opened for the Universiade. Did its opening affect much the development of rhythmic gymnastics in the city?

If we remember the conditions I trained under as gymnast, the difference from today's gymnastic mansions is enormous. It is a gigantic, fantastic and incredible breakthrough. We used to train in an old hall that did not have water, electricity. Our classes could be cancelled just because the roof began to crumble, so nobody was able to enter inside. Now kids have luxurious halls, they are warm, comfortable and well-equipped. We did not have it all. I am happy for today's generation of Kazan gymnasts who have all conditions to do sport.

Kazan constantly organises events connected with the world of elite rhythmic gymnastics, for example, the annual World Cup stage. Can we call Kazan a capital of this sport of our country?

I can't say that Kazan is the capital of rhythmic gymnastics. But it is an important centre, of course. I believe that every city has its own starlet. However, not all the cities have a possibility to develop like Kazan. The country doesn't have such gymnastic centres. It is a unique venue that can be compared with the Moscow Olympic Gymnastic Centre only. What should I add if our stars Rita Mamun and Yana Kudryavtseva come to train here? They perform here for spectators, at least in the annual World Cup, which has been held in Kazan for the third time. It is a real quality seal. In general, Kazan constantly hosts something. Now the World Junior Diving Championships are taking place. The Confederations Cup Draw has just finished. Fans of sport are lucky in Kazan!

2018 FIFA WC ambassador

Speaking about the draw and FIFA. You are an ambassador of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, right?

Yes, in Nizhny Novgorod. But we won't have the Confederations Cup. I was offered in summer. I accepted the offer with pleasure!

Why in Nizhny Novgorod?

I am living there now and working the most of the time in Nizhny. It is an important city for me, though I miss Kazan.

There are not many responsibilities, they are all pleasant. I need to promote the championship, its symbols, and emblems, participate in events, open lessons and lectures. I help the recruitment of volunteers

What responsibilities do you have as an ambassador?

There are not many responsibilities, they are all pleasant. I need to promote the championship, its symbols, and emblems, participate in events, open lessons and lectures. I help the recruitment of volunteers. We, athletes, show business, the media – everything needs to work on the awareness of the championship and its positive character. It is necessary to understand the importance of the moment. I don't know whether we will have a chance to see such a championship again.

You travelled abroad, visited WC and Euro, the Olympiad in Rio. Anyway, there is an opportunity.

An ordinary Russian can't afford it. As for ticket prices, they were five or seven times higher in Europe. It can't be compared with the atmosphere of a championship at home. I understood it in Sochi and in Kazan at the Universiade.

'I don't regret finishing my career'

Don't you regret finishing your career while observing turns and twists in elite sport?

I did not have big goals. Injuries did not allow me to train and compete with the previous result. Of course, I wanted to continue but finished the career as Russian, European and world champion. As Olympic champion, all in all. Many people can't dream about it. This is why I should not regret what I could not do.

I finished the career as Russian, European and world champion. As Olympic champion, all in all. Many people can't dream about it. This is why I should not regret what I could not do.

Looking back, when was your most difficult moment in career?

After this story, I really understood the role of the coach in athlete's fate, how important this person is in life. When I broke my leg and could not compete, I not only returned to sport but became stronger thanks to my coach. It was difficult. I was not in shape. I gained weight, started to forget some elements. Almost all people stopped believing in me except my coach. We proved and showed we would not give up easily.

Have you ever work as coach?

I am working as coach in Nizhny Novgorod! My school for young gymnasts has been working for two years. I organise its work and personally work with kids, though there is staff. So I know first-hand what it is like to work with kids. The school is for 3-5-year-old girls. They are very small. This is why I can't talk about the prospects of my pupils. But I believe they will be fine.

'The higher you are, the lower bow your head '

In your opinion, how to prepare for training process, first of all, from a psychological perspective? You are in the national team at the age of 10. Then you are on the Olympic podium aged 15.

Coach and parents bring up a gymnast. Our Irina Viner-Usmanova always emphasises that the status as an Olympic champion doesn't change you as a person. The higher you are, the lower bow your head. We are taught it. We, gymnasts, both our generation and young athletes, know and understand it.

The school is for 3-5-year-old girls. They are very small. This is why I can't talk about the prospects of my pupils. But I believe they will be fine.

What are your key priorities at work and requirements for pupils as a coach?

Preparation of all-around champions of the planet is not my primary goal. The most important thing for me is to educate beautiful, healthy and self-confident girls. Many kids do this sport. But the podium has five seats in team events. The best gymnasts occupy them. It does not mean other girls are weaker or worse.

'All regions are strong'

Still, what's the secret of sports happiness of the most beautiful and graceful sport?

Correct work and motivation is the recipe for success. Parents should understand that not all the girls will become the new Margarita Mamun. It is not bad. It is not the most important thing. Education at such a young age is more than just half the battle. If you push and put pressure on a kid, don't count on a good result. Alexandra Safronova who coached me when I was a kid, who is, by the way, the head judge, saw something in me at once. She gradually prepared and hoped that I would conquer Olympic summits. Her part in my merits is huge. Indeed, an experienced coach sees talents and takes them under her wing. By the way, she on Irina Viner-Usmanova's team, sits and chooses prospective kids who will be in the main team of the country in Moscow. This is why many girls came to Kazan. They all want to show themselves. Doors to elite gymnastics for girls from regions won't open without such competitions.

Is this factor one of the main reasons why you created the tournament?

Sure. It was the main goal, the motivation!

'I believe that any village has a starlet that will become a new star. She just needs some help.' Photo: akgym.ru

In your opinion, what are the strongest regions in rhythmic gymnastics now?

I can't say that some region is remarkable. All the teams show themselves. Every team has strong girls who are able to surprise the world of sport like Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Saratov. We are having Russian competitions, girls from neighbouring countries come here. They are all on the podium. This is why all the regions are strong. I believe that any village has a starlet that will become a new star. She just needs some help. It is enough to turn away, not to support her on time and she will burn out like hundred stars in the sky.

In conclusion, would you like to wish anything to young athletes from Kazan?

I would like to wish coaches and parents, first of all, had perseverance and diligence, patience, love, understanding. Girls, our sports future is in your hands. We believe in you, go further and don't look back!

By Rustam Imamov. Photo: vk.com/dariashkurihina
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