Svetlana Khorkina gave an interview to Gazeta.ru taking mostly about the doping scandal and how Russia might be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, she also talked about the current state of Russian gymnastics. Here are some excerpts from her interview:
Q: Right now Russia is in a difficult situation. The National Paralympic committee still hasn’t regained its standing and it’s not clear whether the Russian team will be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang. Do you think that the international organizations who keep stalling this decision are correct?
A: It is very unpleasant for me that they trample on our athletes. But at the same time, I believe that justice will triumph and our athletes and parathletes will have the opportunity to perform both in winter and summer at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I would very much like for the organizations that ruin the whole international Olympic movement with their actions and reports to expand their horizons and work more openly and not to employ double standards – for them to not investigate just one country, but fight for the purity of sport all over the world.
And this kind of one-sidedness causes bewilderment at the very least. I have a short answer for them – you look at your backyard first, is everything all right there?
There is also a big question mark regarding the athletes who receive therapeutic use exemptions. On one hand, you can’t consider them parathletes, but on the other hand, they get an advantage over other participants in the competition, and this is obvious. And today I don’t see it feasible to decide to which group these athletes belong. We need to outline a certain framework for professional athletes and put them in equal conditions, and maybe then the Olympic motto “Faster, higher, stronger” will regain its power – its kind of sports magic.
Q: Is there any current gymnast that you could call your successor?
A: No. Because it’s very hard to repeat [my success] and also to catch up with me in the number of medals. I generally think that each athlete should leave their own unique footprint. I’ve done it.
Q: Do the current [Russian] gymnasts have better conditions than you had in your time?
A: Yes, undoubtedly. For example, we have this famous Olympic training center, the Round Lake, that prepared a huge number of Olympic champions. It was rebuilt and the living and training conditions improved. I’m very glad that nowadays our athletes have all the necessary conditions to prepare for all kinds of competitions.
Q: What’s stopping our gymnasts to take the lead on the world’s scene as it was 15-20 years ago?
A: It’s a complicated issue and I’m not a part of their training process. Of course, we’re preparing both the active national team and the reserve. A lot depends on the athlete’s personality. My coach told me: The success’s formula is three T – talent, patience, and diligence [in Russian all three words start with a T]. I only had a lot of diligence and a tiny bit of patience. I believe diligence is the most important thing. And also the ability to discipline yourself.
Q: You invented several new elements in artistic gymnastics. Who was more inventive – you or the coaching staff?
A: All these unique elements were invented by my coach, Boris Pilkin. As a pair, we made a huge contribution to the fact that nowadays tall gymnasts can compete in WAG. It was then that we discovered the gymnastics of the 21st century – now gymnasts are flying on the bars and not crawling. I was very lucky to have such a coach and I wish to every athlete to meet a coach as unique as mine.
Q: How hard it was to introduce a new element and were there obstacles to your innovations put by the judges? Was there, perhaps, a too conservative approach [from the judges]?
A: In order to learn a new element which was never done by anyone before, you need a few years of preparation and introducing it into the routine. But the judges did not always gratify me with a proper assessment of the difficulty which was their mistake. Because a gymnast is interesting if she and her routines have something special that makes her different from her competitors. That was upsetting.
Q: You see a lot of young gymnasts. How do you estimate the potential of Russian artistic gymnasts? Will we be able to return to the leading position in the world?
A: I always believe in the best and I want to win the Olympic Games with the Russian team but representing a different role. When I’m meeting with young gymnasts I always tell them that they are better, smarter, more beautiful and talented than us and they’ll be able to achieve everything they want. I truly believe that.