Artem Dolgopyat who placed 4th in the floor final at the European Championship was called “Shatilov’s heir” by the Israeli media. The gymnast is overcoming back pain in his daily training, while also serving in the Israeli army. At the Baku World Cup he placed the last after falling and not being able to finish the floor exercise. That didn’t discourage him from giving his all at the European Championships in Cluj.
He gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. Below is the translation of the interview with some additional comments.
Dolgopyat is only 19 years old, so for him this only a beginning of the gymnastics career and already a huge achievement. His dream is to go to the Olympics (last year Israel qualified only one representative – Alexander Shatilov). He has also been suffering from back pain for years and this prevented him from doing better. At the end of 2016, he even had to take a break from gymnastics because of the pain.
“I had to take a break from gymnastics for three months, I didn’t train at all. I did physiotherapy and conditioning and I was even thinking that I might not be able to return to competitions. I wasn’t thinking “That’s it, I’m retiring” but rather that if the pain is going to worsen I won’t be able to train, so there’s no point in overcoming it and doing more damage to my body”.
Dolgopyat returned to training in January 2017.
“It was hard to come back. I needed to take a longer break, but I wanted to try and see whether I could go to the European Championships. Before the break, the back pain didn’t stop even for a second. When I took a bus home after training I wasn’t even able to sit because of the pain.”
Dolgopyat talks about his fourth place in the floor final:
“I was really excited. I realized that I’m in the floor final at the European Championships for the first time and that’s really hard psychologically. I arrived at the arena and said to myself ‘That’s it, I’m here and I need to do my best’. I tried to concentrate on the routine and not to look around. I could do a better job and I had a chance to get onto the podium, but I was too nervous and lost my balance a little. I knew it wouldn’t be enough for a medal and even thought that my maximum would be the 6th place.”
Dolgopyat finished 4th with 14.33, while Shatilov took bronze with 14.4.
“On one hand, I was really upset with the 4th place at first, on the other hand, it was my first European Championships and that was a huge achievement for me. I’ll only go forward from there. I am now not disappointed with the 4th place and really glad that I was able to make the final at my first Euros”.
Dolgopyat was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. His father used to be a gymnast, so he signed his son up for gymnastics. Dolgopyat immigrated to Israel at the age of 12.
“Of course, that [the immigration] was really hard. I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t have anything. It was summer, so the schools were on vacation and I spend all my time in the gym. I tried to talk to the other guys, ask them questions, but every time I had to find someone speaking Russian to translate for me. Slowly I started understanding Hebrew. I never went to ulpan (Hebrew classes for immigrants), I learned all my Hebrew at the gym”.
Dolgopyat’s old coach in Ukraine connected him to Sergey Weisberg, Shatilov’s coach. Dolgopyat and Shatilov are both known for their floor exercise.
“It developed with years. On the floor, I’m able to execute much harder elements and build up more difficulty than on the other apparatuses.”
“When I moved to Israel, Shatilov was an unreachable star. Back then I just kept to myself, didn’t try to reach him. I set goals for myself and Shatilov was still too far from me. Now I’m much closer to him and slowly getting there. You can say that in the past two years I put his results as a goal for myself and I’m trying to reach it. My goal isn’t just to reach him or to do something like he does, I want to surpass him and get higher results. I’m working on it.”
Dolgopyat wasn’t able to finish high school because of the training load and gymnastics difficulties. At first, he studied in Tel Aviv but had to go to a high school in Rishon Lezion where he lives:
“I almost didn’t study in Rishon Lezion. In Tel Aviv, the school was half-Russian, all the teachers were Russian and they were explaining things to me. In high school, everything was in Hebrew and it was really hard for me to deal with”.
Dolgopyat is focusing on his gymnastics career right now. He received a prize of 4,500 NIS (about $1,250) for his achievement at the European Championships.
“My back still really hurts, but for now I’m able to train, so I’ll continue. During competitions, I feel less pain because of adrenalin, but during training, it hurts. I try not to pay attention, I’ve been doing physical therapy for 2 years now. I’m trying to do what I can, despite that I’m in the army now and it’s hard to combine with training. He is getting used to seeing his name in the media and dreams of bigger things.
“I used to be young and having achieved nothing. My dream is to achieve something big, to get to the Olympics, to qualify for a final and win a medal. But, of course, my goals, for now, are different. I was 4th at the Euros and the next stop is to qualify for the floor final at the Worlds. I hope that my health will allow this.”
Photo: Walla News