Elena Tkachenko : "I can understand people, who run away here from Ukraine"

She is used to glory and can make fans cheer for her. Natural beauty, grace are main advantages of this gymnast. Pupil of Simpheropol school of gymnastics she became a prima in another country. Ukraine didn't find this gymnast perspective in it's time. For not to dig a talent in the ground Tkachenko searched for a new sports fate and found it in Belarus. From the historical homeland Tkachenko has only a name - Lesya : that's how her mom and friends call her. With Irina Leparskaya her talent started to shine and she became a beautiful swan. 

- I started doing gymnastics in Sevastopol when I was 8 years old, which is quite "old" age. Till that time I was fond of dancing, but my mom decided that rhythmic gymnastics will do me a world of good, will make my flexibility better. Having written me to a club, she couldn't even think that I will get acquainted to the sport, which will soon become my life. When I was 10 years old I moved to Simpheropol, to a famous coach Luibov Serebrianskaya, who played an important role in my becoming a good gymnast

- Tell, why did you decide to change country?

- When I turned 16, I got an opportunity to move to Belarus. This idea appeared after the conversations between Luibov Serebrianskaya and Belarus coach Irina Leparskaya, who I work with now. I couldn't show my talent on my homeland. On National competitions I took 13-15 places and when I went to international competitions, I was often higher than other Ukrainian girls. So when I was asked if I want to move to Minsk, I said with no doubts : "Yes!". A year before that I took part in a competition in Minsk. I liked it here and even then I thought : "It would be cool to live here". So having moved to Belarus, I made my old dream come true

- Did you like your new homeland?

- After I became a part of Belarus team, a lot turned to become better for me. I wasn't scared of leaving Ukraine. They promised to make a great gymnast out of me and they kept the word in Belarus. At once I became 3rd number in the country. And as soon as Lera Vatkina retired, I took the role of 2nd Belarus gymnast. Nowadays I take part in all major international competitions, live in great conditions, get good payment, work with wonderful coaches. In general, I can be envied

- Appearance in Belarus sport people from other countries, including Ukraine, became a tradition in last few years. You were one of the 1st "birds"

- I can easily understand people, who decide to switch to Belarus. They can be sure that their achievements will be seen. Our president tries to cope with problems of national sport and perhaps that's why we, sportsmen, feel so comfortably in Belarus. I was very nicely met by Belarus girls. I came into friendly atmosphere. Even though I've taken place of somebody in the gym, I didn't feel any hostility from the girls. They tried to support me, tried to help. It is said that there can be no friendship in big sport. I disagree with this. Everything depends on a person. Now we have wonderful relations in the team. We chat since morning till night, sometimes we spend free time together. Of course, little quarrels happen, but nothing more

- Lena, have you ever envied children, who could spend their free time as they wanted?

- I never thought about it. Since childhood my life had a very complicated schedule : 2 trainings per day. The world was turning around rhythmic gymnastics for me. Soon it became a habit. Did I get tired of sport? Perhaps, yes. I wanted to rest, but to give up - never. When I was child, I skived off some trainings. There was one case in Simpheropol, when I just didn't finish my way to the hall. I felt that I'm so tired morally and physically (I had very tiring trainings), that I turned on 180 degrees and went home. Now I can't imagine my life without sport. I know that when I retire, I will stay living in Belarus, but I don't make big plans. A lot of gymnasts find their way in normal life easily. Zhenya Pavlina opened her own theatre, Katya Serebrianskaya, who was my idol in the childhood, organised her school

- Perhaps the most devoted fan of Elena Tkachenko's talent is her mom

- I think, yes. At first she moved with me to Simpheropol and then to Minsk. My mom is by profession a music teacher. So since childhood she made me love music. Mom is very emotional person. Earlier I forbid her to go to competitions because she worried about me too much. However soon she calmed down, even though she doesn't watch competition "live" now as well. She can watch my routines when the results are already known.

- And are you an emotional person?

- I try not to lose my temper, even though it doesn't work always. Excitement if often the reason of my mistakes during the routines, but I never try to find guilty people. Mistakes only make me train harder. I can work one element for hours, where I made a mistake on competitions. I cried only once on podium, when in very difficult fight I was in front of Anya Bessonova in the results paper and I got a victory on International games in Ukraine. I think that gymnast must smile to judges and to spectators. However, it looked quite funny when in Sydney Alina went after the lost hoop with a smile on her face

- A usual fan usually pays attention to the grace and beauty of the gymnast and only then to the execution of the elements. How do you impress spectators?

- Rhythmic Gymnastics combines sport and art. When I go to the carpet, I feel myself partly an actress. Irina Leparskaya and I try to choose music of lyric character, which shows my inside world better. Leotard plays a huge role in the routine as well. We must make harmony with everything. Appearance of such element of our costumes as a skirt made rhythmic gymnastics looks much better. Sportsman became more woman. Now designers have bigger fantasy. I don't take part in creating costumes myself, even though it's always pleasant for me to wear a beautiful and original leotard. Now I prefer 2 new routines with rope and clubs in a romantic style. As a music we chose a composition in Vekshin and show-ballet "Todes". I hope that spectators will like them

- What is main for a gymnast : view of a judge or love of spectators?

- Recognition of fans is the highest draw. When sounds of music are not heard because of huge applouds, you don't need scores anymore. You know everything without them. When I competed in Ukraine, I was practically always put in lower places than I could get. When I became a member of Belarus team I've never ever touched on this problem again both on national and international stage

- It seems that results in rhythmic gymnastics are known long before the competition started and they can be changed only by something extraordinary.

- You are half right. Rhythmic gymnastics and figure skating are most subjective kinds of sport. The destiny of the medals are solved not by second or meters, but people, who have feelings. That's why if you don't show yourself during 4 years, you will get like this on Olimpics. We always have a fight and it's important to show yourself from the best side and deserve your place on podium

- If we started to talk about Olimpics, let's open your plans for the most important competition of every sportsman...

- Olimpics is my aim number one. I live with this thought. The main is to go to Athens and then we'll see. Certainly every sportsman dreams of gold medal and I'm not an exception. But in any kind of sport you can't guess. On last Olimpics Alina Kabaeva, who could have been given gold medal beforehand, because of a big mistake got to be only 3rd. As we live, we'll see

- Competition in rhythmic gymnastics grows every year. Routines of sportsmen become more difficult, quality of execution of the elements gets higher. Do you think there is a limit for perfection? What waits rhythmic gymnastics after Olimpics in Athens?

- When new rules of 2001 came, I was shocked. I thought that in 1 and a half minutes it's impossible to do so many difficult elements. At first we could do nothing, but then I got used and managed to do all the difficulties. New rules came because the time came as well. Rhythmic Gymnastics develops very fast. I won't be surprised if in some years a new original apparatus will be created. Even now the level of international competitions is very high. It is because rhythmic gymnastics gets more and more popularity in the world. Many coaches from the former USSR now work abroad. However, I think that representatives of Slavic countries will still be at top. Abroad everybody thinks about sport in another day. Gymnasts can do what they want, they have only 1 training per day. We work without stop and rest. 

- Nowadays there are many doping scandals in the world of sport and world of rhythmic gymnastics in particular. What do you think about the disqualification of Russians Alina Kabaeva and Irina Tschaschina?

- I can't say it surprised me. As I know Kabaeva and Tschaschina were caught on using medicines to lower the weight. I'm sure that rhythmic gymnastics lost a lot. It will be difficult for them to return after such a big break, even though they are masters of a really high class and won't give up so easily. Bulgarian Simona Peycheva and Ukrainian Tamara Yerofeeva refused from the medals, which they got as a result of disqualification of Russian sportsman. I think they did right.

- Girls which do rhythmic gymnastics are slim. What do you do to keep yourself fit?

- I don't take any special pills, don't keep to a diet. Our coaches don't control what and how we eat. For them the main thing is shape of gymnasts. We are adult people and we understand what we can eat and what we can't. I can say that I can eat everything. Sometimes I can treat myself with an ice-cream. After our trainings all calories fly away.

- On pages of newspapers and magazines quite often we can see nude photos of many famous sportsman. Svetlana Khorkina, Yulia Chepalova, Maria Butyrskaya, Amina Zaripova are only few of the list. What you like to do the same?

- If to be true, I can't understand them. I don't know what made sportsmen go for this, but I don't think  that there are only money. If Amina and Svetlana get a great pleasure that the whole world looks on their body, let them take photos. Every person can do what he/she wants and we can't judge them

- What do you do in your free time?

- Free time?  I have it very little, so I don't have a big choice. I like to sit at the seaside, even though I live in Minsk for quite a long time, I can't say that I know the city pretty well. I can walk in the center, but other regions are total darkness for me. I know one route - from home to gym. Sport is on the 1st place for me. I even practically don't study. At school every understood me  In Kharkov national academy of Phsyical education and sport, which I didn't leave when I moved to Belarus, go forwards to me as well. Even though I'm the citizen of Belarus, I continue studying there. Once Yana Batyrchina and Zhenya Pavlina studied there

- What do you think about other kinds of sports? Would you like to follow the example of Irina Deruigina and join your life with a football player?

- I like many kind of sports, perhaps, except women, who do weightlifting, are quite strange to me. Sport leaves me very little time for private life. Of course, if I try, I can do everything. If to speak about Irina Deruigina, they anyway broke with Oleg Blokhin. I wouldn't like to repeat her destiny in her family life. I watch football on TV, but mainly World and European Championships. I cheer up Brazil and of course Ronaldo is my favorite player

- The best forward of world championships 2002 has a huge popularity in the whole world. And how are fan deals going in Belarus for Lena Tkachenko?

- I'm not recognised in the streets and Thanks God, but sometimes I'm called to home by phone. There is a person, who I talk a lot by phone. There is a mystery for me how my fans get to know my phone number. Their attention is pleasant for me. I think that everybody would like to chat with friendly and easy going people

- What would you like to wish girls, who make their first steps in rhythmic gymnastics and see an idol in Lesya Tkachenko?

- Work, work and again work. Easiness, which we do the most difficult elements with, is reached by an extremely hard work. And I will advise to listen to the coach. She will never try to hard you, even when it seems that she is very cruel. In rhythmic gymnastics coach plays a huge role. I am obliged to my coach for everything I achieved in my life. And of course the main thing is to love gymnastics and everything will be great

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Copyright by Lidia Vinogradna (c) 2000-2003
Interview by Anna Savchik from newspaper "Pressball", Belarus 2002