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The cheerful wind of Elena Vitrichenko

The wars are over. The battles were played. 20 years of trainings and tears, intrigues and victories have passed. Elena Vitrichenko was often called "The metal lady of Rhythmic Gymnastics". However nowadays those days are remembered only by the photos on the walls of her school. And the girl in flower-pink spring dress creates and impression of absolutely happy person. Her mom is always near her - Nina Mihailovna, earlier she was a coach as well, but now she is simply only a mother. She doesn't walk a step from her. But not because Lena is weak, not. Because Lena is happy and the waves of cheerfulness fill into the other people, who are near her

Lena : My mom always told me : "If you get over all the negative situations, they will be over. Just wait. And you will be the happiest person in the world afterwards". And she was right. I'm such a cheerful person now!

It is easy to know the reason of this happiness. Kiev is a big village and here everyone knows everything about other people. And of course even more than everything if the case is related to one of the most perspective brides of the city. That's why, when at the end of December of 2001 we got to know the romantic wedding ceremony of Lena in Finland, nobody could believe it, because earlier nobody has seen this man with a beautiful brave face near her. Nobody knew his name. Mysterious lover? Actually everything is more simple...

- Lena, I always had an impression that you always think before doing something. I was greatly surprised that you could marry a person knowing him only 8 days...

- I was surprised by this no less than you ! (laughs). I always dreamed that a man of my life was stronger than me, that I could learn something from him. When the person is on the same level with me, I lose my interest very fast. And Lesha intrigued me and got me interested in... I can't even say what. Even though I'm always very careful in everything, I had some situations in my life when I risked a lot of things and then wished I hadn't done that. And so I was very careful with males too. However, in this case I wasn't careful for a while

- How did Aleksey impress you?

- The main thing for me was that I could speak about everything to him. I can't tell a person, who I see for the 1st time in my life, what is inside my soul. And with Lesha I felt so great from the very beginning! Everything he said was the same I wanted to say, his feelings were the same as mine. And I understood that I can live with this person all my life. I didn't want to get married, than get divorced, again get married - it's not for me. I looked for the person I could live with for many, many years

- You even took a double surname

- Yeah..Vitrichenko-Borovikova. I didn't want to change my surname, but to add a new one - that seemed fine for me. My status became different when I got married. Lesha only asked doomed : "Will you change your surname" No? I thought so!

- You have a powerful character. Do you need to press your feelings to safe the peace in the family?

- No, nothing. I've been trying to make a strong person out of myself for year, a person, who struggles, fights..and now I get an ocean of pleasure because I don't need to do anything at home. I can be soft, white and fluffy!

- Do you cook lunch for your husband yourself?

- Yes, I can do everything

Nina Mihailovna Vitrichenko : Lena has a great talent. I was never good at cooking and I was surprised by her skills, because usually cooking talent goes genetically. She is so good at shopping, that this sauce is something special or something like that. For me there is no difference

Lena : Mom can only differ sausages from cheese! And I can do strange things : I can not see how the dish is prepared and without asking the receipt, cook it myself. It's true!

- Do you get early in the morning as an old habit?

- No, I sleep for a while. And I look after myself with great pleasure. With a great amount of animals who live at our home. We have a puma, we celebrated a year of his birth lately. His name is Lusien Nick 32 and he is very handsome, his eyes are so beautiful! And he is now higher than a sheep-dog

- Does your puma has a separate room?

- No, he's got a big cage. And we allow him to run over the flat. He doesn't really listen to my orders, even though I feed him. He accepts me only as a person, who gives him food. And he listens to Lesha with no doubts, he falls on the back, picks his paws up and shows his stomach. We have a cat as well, who thinks he is the head of the flat and he is very impudent. Sometimes they fight, but they play more than fight. However, once our puma caught him and bit through his paw. So we had to sew the cat. That's the extreme we have

However, even little neat house "extrimes" don't allow Lena forget about rhythmic gymnastics. And she doesn't need it because last year thanks to Lena a new sports center was opened in Kiev. The school of Elena Vitrichenko looks very much alike to any other gymnastics school : cozy gym in gray-blue colors, 2 carpets, mirrors and a pile of little kids

- Was it difficult to create a school out of nothing for you?

- Not very easy, I'd say like that. I was alone then, my mom worked in Spain and it was difficult for me to do everything myself, but I got help from people, who found the gym for me, did some repairs. I had this dream from big sport and I'm happy that it transported in normal life. Everything worked!

- But you must think about a period of time when your kids will be able to get into the National Team of Ukraine and then again you will get a portion of scandals

Lena : we exist away from them, we don't do competition for them on the highest level. Our kids are too small for it yet

Nina Mihailovna : We don't have the task to compete against Deruigins because their kids is the National Team

- But your kids may come to the National Team one day..

Nina Mihailovna : When they get there, we will see. If they will be hard-working, they will. When Lena was growing, the situation was the same and Albina Nikolayevna was even stronger than she is now. And nevertheless the one, who aims to something, will reach it anyway

- It is rhythmic Gymnastics and if the conflicts between you and Deruigins continue, the children from Vitrichenko's school won't be able to compete...

Nina Mihailovna : And is the life simple? It was difficult for us to get down from the world level to the pots level. I have quite a lot of experience and I got to know - who is to become a great sportsman, will become it. With no doubts. Maybe, thanks to the obstacles, we look differently on the school. Rhythmic Gymnastics is a great way of growing children. When kids do drawing or music, nobody puts them an aim to become Rastropovich or Velaskes. They grow and it is a way of development for them. Rhythmic Gymnastics is the same. It is not clever to try to foresee and to search for the ways out of situations, which haven't occurred yet. It is a sports for children and kids must grow in beauty. Even if they won't become great gymnasts, they will be more grateful, they will feel the music better, the star will start to beam in their souls, which will make them develop themselves. And it is not only for gymnastics, but also for life. Sometimes we see that some girls turn into good gymnasts just after one day.

In 1999 on World Championships in Osaka thanks to Lena the team of Ukraine didn't only win the bronze in the team competition, but also got the right to send 2 gymnasts to the Olimpics. Out of 4 medals, which Ukrainian got in individual competition, 3 medals, including 2 gold, were also given to Vitrichenko. Nobody doubted that the leader of Ukraine in Sydney will be she. However, in 2000 Lena receives 10th place on Deruigina Cup in Kyiv, then 19th on European Championships in Zaragoza...

- 2 year have passed since the conflict between Vitrichenko and Deruigins started. Maybe now it is easier to think over what happened, to try to understand each other?

Nina Mihailovna : You know, we understand Albina Nikolaevna and Irina Ivanovna quite well. Lena told me in the worst periods : "Mom, they are just fighting for their gymnasts". But it's another thing when they introduce not just their school, they introduce the Federation of the country and so they represent the country. And they were solving their problems, the problems of Deruigins school. They were sure of their rights, we were sure in our. It was painful for me that Lena is being let down, just from the human side of things. But she showed everybody that she is a personality and they won't break her. We were able to defend ourselves, we do what we think we must do - it is the main for us. If they need our help, we will never refuse. We have forgiven them. It was clever. And their behavior before the Olimpics was not.

- I have noticed that Olimpics is a kind of catalyst for many scandals...

Nina Mihailovna : In every necessary situation it is easy to start a scandal. And it start so, the problem happened just before the Olimpics. It turns out that rhythmic gymnastics is such a small kind of sport that on Olimpics they had to put it as a normal sport or not put at all. In artistic gymnastics they have team, boys, girls, all-round, finals. How many medals? And poor rhythmic gymnastics with it's all-round and that's all. And ho many people prepare for the Olimpics for 4 years in every country. Especially Russia, Belarus, Ukraine. And then there are only 3 medals and people fight for them more than for their lifes

In 1996 on Olimpic Games in Atlanta the judges were again unfair. They were simply blocked on the victory of the leader, they didn't want to pick up their eyes and see HOW Lena competed. No mistakes during all 3 competitions and only 3rd place in all-round...

- Nina Mihailovna, I'm interested in your mark of the judges work in Atlanta

- The whole world told us that Lena then was the best and had to be the champion then. But the life is different...In the moment of that heavy pressure, I saw the gymnastics I dreamed of. When the whole life goes in her. That happened also in Budapest - 99 in the finals. I saw Lena on the training and I didn't need to tell Lena a word. This person had such an increase of spirit inside and the emotional burst out that all the problems went away. The second moment was in Osaka on World Championships 1999. Then Lena won 2 gold medals in the finals too. People and spectators rose to their feet because of excitement and pleasure, she brought such a great soul in her routines. They were the tops. Every oerson takes it's tops. Lena took her podium during the greatest pressure

- Lena, what competitions were the most difficult for you mentally?

- The worst was Deruigina Cup in Kyiv in 2000. Abroad such things can be understood - every fights for their gymnasts. But when on your Homeland, at your home people just try to let you down...It was difficult for me to get over this competition. And then I didn't worry about it and even when I took 19th place on European Championships in Zaragoza, I had some kind of passion inside of me - to do very well and then see how little score they can put

The sport has many happy stories, when thanks to the mom-coach a little personality grew and became a champion. Rhythmic gymnastics is that kind of sport, for which this is simply is treasure. A simple female sport excludes friendly relationships, but brings jealousy and rows. And when the relative is near, it is the main for success

- Was Lena an ideal student?

Nina Mihailovna : In the gym - yes. We had some problems at home though. She could show some kind of character at home, she was very naughty. However, she could be naughty at gym as well. Sometimes

Lena : My biggest tragedy in my childhood was that all the children came home to their mothers, but I came home to my coach. I was shouted at gym and then at home too. Now I watch other kids and I understand that it was all correct

- Nina Mihailovna, when you didn't allow your little girl eat an ice-cream, did you feel pity for her?

- I thought that I must create a character for her. Generally the question of food in gymnastics is a question of character. If the girl can't simply keep to a diet, she isn't able to work, to suffer and all the other things to. It shows the character, the will. Lena could, of course, childishly eat a bun somewhere, but she could suffer from it, she knew the line

- When were the problems with weight the most serious?

Nina Mihailovna : we never had serious problems with it, Lena wasn't really very tall, especially comparing to Katya Serebrianskaya. The girls who were on top of their shape at 18 years old, afterwards became too big, too tall for gymnastics and Lena was great at 20. And on Olimpics 96 she was even then technically the strongest, however artistically she was on top in her last years. Now I take the photos of 1997-1998 and I see that in every position had had fantastic cleanness of lines, beautiful face. And before she had a great technique, but lacked some kind of masterpiece and artitistism. When the main fight started, Lena was still on top.All the people around gymnastics, all the journalists took her side. Because it's impossible to compare a great pupil of 9th form at school and the candidate of science. Impossible. They are on different levels. I was impressed by every photo, ever line. Really great masterpiece. Lena told me in Sydney : "I feel so great, I can fly as a butterfly". She reached the top. Medals meant nothing, people thought she was super and that's the main

Lena has many records in gymnastics. One of them is that she is one of the most "living" gymnasts. In 1990 she won junior championships of USSR and since that time for 10 years she was always on podiums

Lena : I won almost all the competitions I took part in during my childhood. However, despite this, I had many downsides. It was said that I am fat, that I have short legs, that I'm not flexible, I can't leap

Nina Mihailovna : In 1991, when Lena came on junior European Championships, Irina Viner said : "Vitrichenko is working too much. That's all, she won't be better". She was not the only one who thought so. And after this Lena competed for 10 more years and reached all the main titles. That's why there can be lots of talks, but if a person wants to reach the aim and doesn't really pay attention on those chats, the top will be reached. Lena was proposed to move to Deruigins school, because I was not a famous coach then. It is difficult to get through for every coach, especially if you are a mom. Coach must show that she is right, to defend her kids. Why people give children to Deruigins and Viner? Because they can easily defend them. Lena, if she moved somewhere, might have had a flash results and that's all. But she had a great potential. Why did she stay in gymnastics for so long? Because when the others received medals and became self-satisfied, settled their ambitions, everything was bad for her. Lena had to work more and more, but then her potential didn't stop for a while. It ran out when she really enjoyed herself.

- Did you think the new rules were a catastrophe?

- I think that both mine and Lena's work made these rules appear. Because we were doing 3 times more difficulty in the routines, than it was required by the old rules. Even 10 years ago we could do catches without eye control, double pivots, double balances. Lena was the first to do lots of elements, audience reacted on them and FIG watched, concentrated, did decisions. New rules don't come out of nothing. The International Federation analyses them, watched what was reached last year and creates plans for the next ones. It is good that now rhythmic gymnastics became more difficult, it is good that gymnasts must write down their elements. And now you are responsible for your words and for what you are doing. We think it is normal, I like new rules

- Many coaches say that it is impossible to show expression on the carpet

Nina Mihailovna : Everything depends on the gymnast. Of course, it is hard to express something, but in 4 years everybody will be able to cope with them. The year has passed, and everybody was shouting : "Change, change!". And now they did them even more difficult. Can you say that Bessonova has nothing in her hoop? Yes, and it is great! The main is the gymnast, her choreography and music

- Lena, if the rules didn't change after Sydney, will you have stayed?

Lena : No, no. I would retire anyway. I did everything I wanted and I think I wouldn't been able to do anything more, that's why I retired. I 'm calm now and I can watch the competitions out of the carpet normally, I don't want to return to gymnastics. I still have some potential, but I don't want to use it. I had one aim after Atlanta - to compete on one more Olimpics and I reached it. I didn't see the sense to compete more, I wanted to set my private life. It is not really pleasant to sit for hours in the gym till 24 years and not to see anybody

- How can you remember your first days without gymnastics?

- Firstly I chatted a lot with my friends, went to many clubs. During that year I could go for exhibitions and to my mom to Spain. I did some small things. However, I was soon bored by them and then I ... got married!

- Nina Mihailovna, it is always difficult to get to normal life from sport. Weren't you afraid to leave Lena alone for that period?

Nina Mihailovna : I always got give the freedom for my daughter. Because I went this path too, I was a gymnast and everything is very usual for me. I knew that I need to give her freedom, that Lena did only gymnastics for 20 years. Even when I was in Spain and Lena was here alone, I told myself - don't prevent her from being herself. Everything has it's time. She has always been talented, obedient, clever...

Lena : Why was???

Nina Mihailovna : I don't speak about you as a person, but about my students. I could only pick my eyes and she understood me. Sportsman don't really often have this reaction. That's why we are both happy. It is a big art to be happy, to be able to look on some situations in the right way. Having gone our way, I understand now why people reach the Everest, why go to the Northern Pole in -40 degrees. People are looking for strong feelings. We have gone through our Everest and have learned to become happy. I'm very happy that Lena now has great private life, she is waiting for a kid now...

- Do you know whether it will be a boy or a girl?

Lena : a boy. Lesha wanted a boy so much! But we decided that we will have a girl next

- Huh, that means that you will postpone the arrival of the 3rd Vitrichenko in rhythmic gymnastics?

Lena : there will be a new gymnast, I won't stop and I want to have lots of kids. I think that only my daughter can become my copy

- And if she will have the abilities of your husband?

Lena : no, he leads sports life too. He can play tennis, billiards, chess, that's why if the kid takes after my husband, it won't be bad. She will have good reaction and coordination

- I think that whole rhythmic gymnastics is waiting for this moment

Lena : (laughing) That will be awful, poor a kid!Do you remember that everyone feared when Deruigina had a small daughter that she will bring her in pampers to the gym? Anya Bessonova is 2nd gymnast in the family and that's why she is nearer to gymnastics than any other kid. And we will even have 3rd gymnast in the family!


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