Elvira Saadi: I am going into the unknown

It’s Elvira Saadi’s birthday today and to celebrate it, here’s the translation of a very old interview with her – she gave this interview to Elena Vaytsekhovskaya in 1991, right before she moved to Canada.

Saadi was on the Soviet gold-medal winning teams in 1972 and 1976 Olympics and later transitioned into a successful coach, first in USSR and then in Canada. She is currently coaching in Dynamo Gymnastics in Ontario.

Q: Is it true [that you’re leaving]?

A: Yes. We got tickets for the 20th of Septemeber. For now, my husband and I are going for a year – into something completely unknown. The daughters will stay in Moscow with my mom for now.

Q: And where are you going?

A: To Canada. There’s a small town there, Oshawa, it’s a six-hour drive from Montreal. I was personally invited – a person who I’ve known for a long time opened their own gymnastics school and offered me to work there a year ago. Lena Davydova, the AA champion of the Moscow Olympics, went to Oshawa half a year ago. She spent three months there and negotiated a job for herself there – as a choreographer. So, we’ll be working together.

Q: One news bigger than the other. I was absolutely sure that Lena was pretty happy with her life – she defended her PhD dissertation, she goes to practically all major competitions as a judge…

A: She has a different problem – her child is seriously ill. There’s hope to cure him in Canada and that’s basically the only reason why Lena’s leaving.

Q: And you leaving has nothing to do with the fact that Groshkova didn’t make the national team, does it?

A: Tanya’s been riddled with injuries. First, her knee started to hurt, then her back. We went to the doctors, but the images showed nothing. The only recommendation was to reduce the training load. But you know well what it means in modern gymnastics to reduce the training load. Of course, we could set ourselves the goal to make the national team by all means, to compete in America. But I couldn’t risk it. To move abroad while leaving her a cripple…

Q: But she’s only 17. She could go on competing…

A: I talked to the head coach – Aleksandr Aleksandrov. At first, he’ll watch over Tanya. She was given a month to rest in Yevpatoria. I will be back in a year and I’ll make the final decision then.

Q: And did you have to hurry with your departure?

A: Let’s talk honestly. I have two kids, and my husband and I, basically, are unable to provide for a normal life for them. I don’t have special connections in the stores so that I could buy food, dress the girls, dress myself the way I want. Although it’s easier for me, I spend whole days in a gym, wearing a tracksuit. I’m a Merited Master of Sport, an Olympic Champion. Two days ago I was awarded the “Merited Coach of the RSFSR” honor, my vanity has been satisfied. But here’s an example – Groshkova got sick and now I need to start all over again, with the current funding I have to coach recreational groups. In my view, this is a waste of my knowledge and abilities. It’s humiliating. And many other things about which I just don’t want to talk are also humiliating. You can, of course, bear the humiliation, but only when you’re sure that your humiliation will be rewarded in the form of gold medals. But what if it won’t?

Q: Why do you think it’s going to be easier in Canada?

A: I don’t think that. I’m not going on vacation or for the abundance of food. I’m going to work hard. And I know that when I come back I’ll be able to, at least, buy myself a normal apartment.



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