Semenova: It’s easier to be an athlete than a coach

Ksenia Semenova and Denis Abliazin gave a joint interview to a local TV channel in Penza.

Here’s the translation of the interview. I omitted some parts that weren’t interesting, the whole interview lasted around 40 minutes.

Q: My first question is to Ksenia – why Semenova still and not Abliazina?

Ksenia Semenova: That’s what I decided. From the very beginning, I’ve always told myself that I’ll stay Semenova.

Q: Denis, were you offended by this?

Denis Abliazin: No, no offense, everything’s fine.

The interviewer then asked whether anything changed for the couple after their son was born:

DA: It’s hard for me because I don’t see my son frequently. For example, when I’m leaving for competitions, to another country, it’s hard for me to leave now.

Q: Will your son do gymnastics?

KS: He visited the gym for the first time when he was a month old.

DA: At first, he will definitely do gymnastics just for his general development. If he’ll like it, he’ll continue. If not – then no, there’s no need to make him. He’ll choose his own path.

About obscuring their son’s face  on Instagram:

KS: There are many envious people but I also wanted to post the baby [pictures]. And so I decided – it will be like this at first, and then, after some time, I thought – ok, now I can [post normal pictures].

DA: A lot of people write horrible things to her, you know, as usual. You can’t predict it – sometimes you post a regular photo and then get this [reaction]. Or sometimes you’re reading some article and the comments there are such that you’d be better off never opening this page.

Q: Denis, it seems that you’re not participating in the online activities that much, right?

DA: That’s why I’m not so active because I don’t want to see, to read some comments from random people who think they’re better than someone while they’re sitting on a couch doing nothing. They’re, as people say, couch generals.

Q: If you were to choose only three medals to hang them on the wall, which would you choose?

DA: Three Olympic silvers.

KS: 2007 Gold, 2010 team gold from Worlds and, I guess, 2009 all-around at Euros.

Ksenia talks about watching all competitions where Denis competes and worrying about him more than she ever worried about her own competitions.

About watching last Worlds:

KS: This time I watched on three [devices], I think – I looked up scores on my phone. [I watched] on my computer, on the tablet – everything was open because there were different streams. And the qualification stream didn’t show him! I sat there until 3 am, waited, and they didn’t show him!

Q: How often do you call Ksenia when you’re away at competitions?

DA: Every day, basically. Before the practice, after the practice. We’re texting in Whatsapp mostly. Nowadays, there’s always wifi in the practice gym at every competition, there’s wifi in hotels. Finishing practice and texting right away – I’m done [with practice]. Waiting for the bus and texting. Or video calls at the hotel.

The interviewer asks whether Ksenia and Denis agree that athletic competitions become more show-like.

DA: Nowadays sport is more like show business because every competition is made into a certain type of show. For example, now in Canada, it wasn’t just an arena, it was a hockey stadium. They rented a hockey stadium and split it in the middle, divided it into the warm-up zone and the competition zone. And there, the whole arena was almost full during the qualification. It was completely full during the all-around final and during the event finals. The arena was buzzing. When you looked up, there was a big screen where they showed gymnasts’ routines. So, if you sit close, you see the gymnasts. If you sit somewhere up high, you can’t see anything. You see some itsy-bitsy bug running and jumping but you don’t know who it is. But all the seats there were full, so they were looking at this jumbotron, it was huge, it showed all the elements. There were always people with cameras, there were so many cameras, I think it was the first time in history there was so many. It’s just that there was really a lot of cameras, they filmed everything from every angle.

Q: Did it bother you or make things difficult somehow?

DA: No, they were all hung up in the way that we didn’t see them. Well, the camera people walked around. You finish the routine and they come to you right away, that’s normal.

Q: When you’re sitting there waiting for your score and a person with a camera stands in front of you and starts filming you, does it make you uncomfortable?

DA: Not really. When you already dismounted the apparatus, you know that you did it, you don’t really care. People are happy that they’re finished. And then they see their scores they start waving into the camera Hello everyone, I’m a champion!”. Or when you made a mistake, you leave the podium and you already know that you made a mistake.

KS: I think it bothers girls more, especially when you were really aiming at a medal and you fell, and that’s it, your dream is just running away, swimming away and, I guess, at this moment you don’t want anything.

DA: Well, but you can’t just go to the cameraman and say “don’t film me”.

Q: You’ll definitely get famous if you do that.

DA: Yep, you’ll get millions of likes.

About introductions in the EFs in Montreal:

DA: They already did introductions like that in Glasgow in 2015, exactly like that, so it wasn’t a novelty for me. Although, there, in Glasgow, there were no fire flames. Here, when we were coming through and the fire burst we thought we’d all get bald.

Q: How often do you talk about the sport to each other?

KS: Always.

About Tokyo:

DA: We’re moving step by step. First, a preparation for one competition, then for another. This way it’s simpler and the time flies faster. Because when you start planning for the 2020… Obviously, I want to make the Olympics and come back with medals, but first, I need to get there in a right way. To go through certain competitions and go through them well. And to make it safe and relatively healthy, so that I wouldn’t go to the Olympics injured.

Q: How are you feeling now, did you manage to fix all the injuries from Rio?

DA: Well, about 70%, but it’ll stay with me anyway and it will keep bothering me until I retire.

Q: Ksenia, your career ended early because of injuries, do they still bother you know?

KS: Oh yes. Very much. I think it’ll be this way forever if I don’t have a surgery.

DA: And we were told that even a surgery might not help or it will only help for some time and then it’ll happen again.

Q: But you’re not leaving the sport, right?

DA: She’s a coach.

KS: A coach and a judge. I’m helping a coach for now. When she was preparing for the Olympics with Ksenia Afanasyeva I was helping her with little girls and they’re training now, 11-13 year old girls.

Q: Is Ksenia a good coach?

DA: Why not? She likes kids. She’s a smart girl, she won’t say to a kid who… Well, for example, she’ll get a partially trained kid from another coach and she won’t tell her – ok, let’s do a triple salto, if the girl doesn’t know how to do a double. That would be absurd. She will also be smart about another issue: Something hurts? Ok, let’s see, let’s heal it.

KS: Especially, when it comes to injuries, I know everything.

DA: Now, really, a coach has to listen to his athlete when he says that something hurts. Of course, sometimes an athlete can lie that something hurts in order to work a bit less, but you can see it right away. Because a coach can see right away whether you’re lying that you’re hurt or you’re really hurt. You can see it in the behavior – how you’re dismounting or how you’re running. If, let’s say, it’s an arm, a shoulder, or a hand – they’ll see that you’re trying to protect your hand, moving it away or something, it’s easy to see. Unfortunately, there are coaches who don’t pay much attention to things like that, so their athletes retire very early, because they’re wiped out. And then they themselves become coaches and try to coach with their head and prepare the kids differently, not how their coach did it. You have to see it from the coach’s side, too, see the athletes, be with them, feel what they feel, support them. It’s really a lot of hard work.

KS: That’s what I’m saying, it’s easier to be an athlete.

DA: You go and compete.

KS: Yes, and you know and control everything. But when you’re the coach, you’re watching and worrying – what if something goes wrong. But here you go yourself, you know and feel everything.


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