The Russian gymnastics federation is now seriously working on their marketing and one of the things they’re trying to do is to publicize Komova’s return. Match TV is preparing a special about it, and Sports FM radio made an interview with Vika. The interview was recorded in Voronezh just after she came home from the first training camp after the injury. Here’s a summary of it in English.
The interviewer asks her why she decided to return to training, after such a long break, and after her retirement was basically announcement. Vika says that her back feel much better now and she was medically cleared to train. Her back started seriously bothering her while she was preparing for the Rio Olympics. The pain was so strong that even the strongest painkillers didn’t help and she couldn’t train because of the pain. She felt like she had to retire because she didn’t think that the issue would be fixed. The doctors couldn’t figure out the cause of the pain for a while. She smiles telling that now her back is finally ok and that the German doctors said she can fully return to training.
Vika first started training after the injury at home, with her father as a coach. Then Elfimov, her main coach, returned to Voronezh from the Round Lake, saw her progress and told her that if she’s serious about her comeback, it’s time to go to the Round Lake. He talked to the national team’s coaching staff and they invited Komova to the training camp. Everyone was really glad to see her back at the camp, both the teammates and the coaches, they showed her that they care about, and they were always asking how things are going. Komova looks really happy when she talks about going to the training camp, it shows that she missed the Round Lake very much.
The interviewer says that the national team generally makes the impression as everyone supports each other and reminds about the beam rotation in Glasgow 2015, when Seda Tutkhalian fell off the beam and Komova went to console her. Vika said to Seda that it’s ok, it’s only her first competition of such scale and she’ll do better in the future, and that proved to be true as Seda was on the silver-winning team in Rio. Vika had to watch the Olympics from home because she was treated for her back pain at the moment, but she was really happy to see the Russian team succeed. She was watching with her friends and she was more nervous than if she were competing herself. When she competes she feels like she’s in control, so there’s no reason to be nervous. But watching the Games on TV, she couldn’t control anything, and just tried to mentally will the girls to do their best and to get through their routines.
The interviewer then tries to fish for some scandal, asking if Simone Biles is really that good *implying that Biles’ wins might have been not fair*. Vika says that Simone is really-really that good and such a fantastic gymnast, way ahead of her competition, the only one in the world like that. She calls Simone strong and muscular and says that Simone’s D scores are just unreal and her element combinations are just amazing. When asked if there’s anyone on the Russian team who could challenge Simone, she says that for now, there’s no one.
Vika really wants to return to competing as soon as she can, but she also doesn’t want to rush her recovery and risk another injury. She hopes to return at the Voronin Cup in December 2017, that’s the plan she made with her coach.
Earlier Valentina Rodionenko said that Komova might compete at the Russian Cup in August and try for the Worlds team, but that’s apparently not happening.
Vika is asked how long does it generally take her to recover from injuries, as this was not her first injury. She replies that this was the most serious injury to date because she didn’t set a foot inside the gym for 8 months. Before, when she had surgeries, she still went to the gym regularly and did conditioning and stayed in shape. This is the first time she’s starting from scratch. He coach tells her to imagine as if she just came to the gym for the very first time in her life and she has to start from zero.
During these 8 months, she felt like a normal person for the first time. She slept in, went to the movies, hung out with her friends. She also worked as a coach for the little kids. The kids were very excited to have an Olympic medalist to train them and looked up to her. They even called her Viktoria Aleksandrovna [“Aleksandrovna” is a patronym meaning “daughter of Alexander” and Russian formal speech requires using patronyms when addressing the elders. Coaches and peers obviously wouldn’t use it to address Vika, so it was a new experience for her]. She’s still coaching and the kids like her a lot and boast to their parents that they were coached by Viktoria Komova. It makes her happy to be able to give back to the kids and to put a part of herself in them. She’s thinking about continuing the coaching career in the future, but she wants to have a male coach to work with, saying it would be easier for a male-female pair of coaches to train gymnasts. She also went to a gymnastics camp for kids as a coach and camp counselor.
For the first 6 months after the diagnosis, she didn’t think she’d be coming back, but then when there was a significant improvement in her back pain, she started thinking about returning – she’s still young, she has enough physical and mental resources, so why not? So, when after 8 months she was medically cleared, there was no hesitation for her, she decided to start training right away. When she got the clearance, she first called her coach, and only after that – her parents. She says she needed to tell the good news to the coach first because he was also waiting and hoping for her to return.
Vika is then asked about her childhood and how she came to gymnastics. Her parents are both gymnasts and coaches (her mother, Vera Kolesnikova, is a World Champion). Her mom took little Vika to the gym where she coached, so Vika was exposed to gymnastics almost from birth, she learned to walk at the gym. When she went to kindergarten, her mom still brought her to the gym every afternoon, so she played there, ran around, jumped on the trampoline… However, Vika hated training as a kid and when her mom tried to coach her, it was a disaster. Vika didn’t listen, ran around the gym, refused to do any assignments. But somehow, when she started to compete against other kids, she still won, despite behaving horribly during training. Back then she never liked to train but loved competing. Elfimov became her coach when she was 7, and that was when the serious training started. Elfimov tried to make training playful, though. For example, they had a game, when if she didn’t do the element, she would get a flick on her forehead. However, if she did the element, she could give a flick to the coach. Basically, her coach used both carrot and a stick. If she cried, he would tell her off for crying and be strict with her. She feels like he’s strict, but still kind when needed.
She started really liking gymnastics when she was around 12, winning a lot of competitions and learning new elements that her friends couldn’t do.
Her icon is Svetlana Khorkina, she was always looking for new interviews with Khorkina and watching her on TV (back then, she sighs, there was no youtube yet). When she went to the Round Lake for the first time, Khorkina was there, and Vika was completely star-struck. She wanted to go up to Khorkina but was also too afraid. He coach introduced her to Khorkina as the future Olympic champion and took a photo of them together. Vika says she was shaking from the excitement of meeting her idol. Now they talk like equals, already, and Khorkina once came to meet the team at the Euros and offered them some words of support and advice.
Komova’s first major junior competition was the Pacific Rim Champs in 2008. She still remembers how she flew across the ocean on the 30th of January, her birthday. She wasn’t in a very good shape then and she contemplated quitting gymnastics at the moment. She wasn’t enjoying gymnastics and training wasn’t going well, so she didn’t want to continue. The medal at the Pac Rims might have helped to motivate her to stay in the sport.
When she makes mistakes in competition, she and her coach do a full analysis of her routines afterward and work on trying to fix whatever the problem was.
The first biggest win for her was the 2009 EYOF, where she got gold in the all-around.
She describes her feelings when winning gold medals: you try to do your best for yourself, and for the country, and when the flag is raised and the anthem is played, it’s a really good feeling. And you do it for the coach too. You stand there with your medal and look at him and he smiles at you, so it feels very nice.
She thinks that the Olympics are the most important competition, because it’s only once every four years, and only a few people can compete there, only the strongest can manage to get there.
She is asked about competing in London and why she ended up with silver. She tells that the reason was her mistake on vault. She thought a lot about the AA final and how she told afterward that silver medal is nothing because only the gold matters. She thinks she was wrong and doesn’t feel this way anymore. She was really sad then because it was her dream to win the AA gold and she felt like it was within her reach. She came back because of the Tokyo Olympics, she really wants to compete at the Olympics again.
London Olympics amazed her with the crowds, she’s never seen crowds like that at competitions before. When someone finished a routine and people started yelling and clapping, she couldn’t her coach standing right by her and talking to her. She felt like the crowd mostly cheered for the US and UK, while there weren’t a lot of Russian fans in the arena. She didn’t see anything in London and didn’t go to any competitions other than gymnastics, because they were only training and competing, and went home right after all the finals. They couldn’t even watch the men’s competition in person (except for the individual finals) because they had to train and rest and weren’t allowed to go anywhere.
Vika says she didn’t know she’d be given a car after the Olympics. She heard that it might happen, but thought it was a joke, so she was really surprised when she got a car.
Her mom organizes her medals. The most valuable medals (Olympics and Worlds) are in a special case, while the rest are framed.
She is asked about unfair judging and tells that judging the mistakes in the routines can be quite subjective, so if an athlete takes a step back, one judge might feel it’s a 0.1 deduction, while another will take 0.3. The only way to prevent it is to compete without mistakes. She tries not to get emotional about her scores because she mostly knows what mistakes she made and what kind of deductions to expect.
She praises her coaches, saying that she wouldn’t be able to achieve anything without them. She’s asked if she ever talks back to the coach, and says that sometimes she does if she disagrees with something.
Vika says that she wasn’t naturally flexible and didn’t have good lines as a kid, so her lines and flexibility are all thanks to her choreographer. Right now she’s also training a lot with her mom and dad when Elfimov is at the Round Lake.
At the last training camp, she was working out with the junior team. The first training session starts at 8:30 – warm-up, conditioning, working on the apparatuses, and it lasts till 11:00 or 11:30. Then they have lunch, a break, and start training again at 16:00 (warm-up, apparatuses, then conditioning) till about 19:00. Her favorite apparatuses are bars and floor. She loves doing bars because she feels like she’s flying.