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Friday, July 12, 2024

BRICS Games champion Svetlana Kolesnichenko: it is difficult to achieve results without love for your sport

TV BRICS – Svetlana Kolesnichenko was born in 1993 in Gatchina, Leningrad Region. At the age of six she took up synchronised swimming, and from the age of 13 she trained in Moscow under the guidance of Olga Vasilchenko.

In 2010, she joined the Russian national synchronised swimming team. At the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, she won gold medals in pairs (with Svetlana Romashina) and group performances.

In 2016, she became an Olympic champion in group events for the first time. In 2021 at the Olympic Games she won two gold medals – in duet and group.

Svetlana Kolesnichenko is a 16-time winner of the World Championships and 11-time European champion. In 2024, at the BRICS Games in Kazan, she brought three gold medals to the Russian team.

At the 2024 BRICS Games you took the first gold medal for the Russian national team. How did you feel at that moment?

It was unexpected and will be remembered for the rest of my life. Usually in the programmes of large-scale sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, for example, synchronised swimming competitions are near the end. This time I didn’t know that we would be the first, and if I had known, I would have been even more worried. Of course, it is very honourable to win the first gold medal of the Games for your country.

Do you worry before every start?

Probably not as much as at the beginning of my career. When you are still young, when you have just joined the national team, you are afraid of letting the team and coaches down. We are not playing for ourselves, we are representing the country. Calmness comes with experience. Although at the BRICS Games I felt a strong surge of adrenaline, my heart was fluttering.

Do you like this feeling?

Yes, it’s more of a mixed feeling: on the one hand it’s scary and thrilling, and on the other hand you are ready to show the maximum and charge your partner with this energy.

You brought back three gold medals from Kazan, what do they mean to you?

Of course, they are not the last place on my shelf, they are very important honours. It was the first time I took part in the BRICS Games and I hope that they will develop further. It is very important, and I also hope that they will be held in our country as often as possible, because the organisation this time was at the highest level.

Did you return to Moscow with a sense of accomplishment?

Yes, definitely, we did everything we had planned. I don’t like to review competitions, I still haven’t seen my performance, I’m not ready. For us the most important thing is the result, the praise of the coach. This time he was satisfied, but we still have to work on our mistakes – there is no limit to perfection.

When you revisit the videos of your performances, even after several years, do you find something new for you?

Our programme changes every two years. If I watch a programme from five years ago, it won’t be very informative. Of course, we will revisit the last start a little later to do some work on mistakes. I’ll find what could have been done differently. It’s not visible to the viewer.

I’m as self-critical as possible, so I repeat, I don’t like to re-watch recordings of my performances.

So you don’t watch your performances at competitions. What about the interviews?

That’s also hard for me. I can watch it once, and if I like it, I can show it to my family and friends.

Tell us what the story you are trying to convey in your programme “Light and Darkness” is about. What, in your opinion, are the thoughts of the viewers who watch it?

The idea was not born immediately. The music for us was written by Mikhail Ekimyan, who has been working with Tatiana Danchenko (coach of the Russian national team in synchronised swimming) for many years. Initially she told us what format of music she wanted to hear. We planned to show different kinds of emotions, but then we realised that it thematically overlaps with performances of other countries. So we decided to make a programme called “Light and Darkness”, showing different sides of human nature.

When you started working on this programme, you wanted to be in the role of Darkness. Why?

All my life, both in solos and duets, I have very tender images. I wanted to try myself in a different role. But the coach said: “What’s your name, Sveta? You’ll be the light. We initially wanted to make a black and white leotard. But in the end the costumes for the performance were the same.

But do you understand why you wanted to be Darkness? Was it a desire for experimentation?

Yes, it was. Internationally, our discipline is called “artistic swimming”. As actresses of sorts, we have to convey different spectrums of emotion. I wanted to try myself not only from the positive side.

Tell us about the atmosphere of the BRICS Games. Athletes from different countries took part in them. How did you interact?

I was at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan. This time I felt the atmosphere again. The BRICS Games immersed me in the festivities one more time: when you meet athletes from different countries who came in their national costumes it makes you happy. Everyone is smiling, ready to help each other, participating in interactives. It is a unique atmosphere. It is pleasant that we prove again that we can organise competitions of any scale at the highest level.

Have any of the athletes, with whom you once competed at the same competitions, become part of your closest circle?

Yes, I communicate a lot, I correspond with colleagues from different countries, we congratulate each other on holidays. As for compatriots, even from other sports, we often see each other at bases, meet at competitions. Naturally, a lot of time is spent on the training process. Sometimes we worry about each other. If we have a chance to relax a little, for example in a hotel, we watch broadcasts of competitions. I’m always happy to communicate.

Let’s talk about other sports. What are you interested in? What competitions did you watch at the Games?

I’ve always loved watching water sports, of course, because we’re like one big family. I love artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics. I enjoy watching summer sports as much as I can.

Do you like winter sports?

Yes, I watched biathlon and figure skating throughout my childhood.

Why didn’t you take up biathlon or figure skating?

In our small town there was no such opportunity. Besides, my father was a swimmer. I was sent to the pool, initially to lose weight. Then fate led me to professional sport.

Coming back to the BRICS Games. What significance do you think these competitions have for the development of the regions where such international starts are held?

It helps to popularise sports among the locals. So that people take up sport because they genuinely love it. I hope that more and more Russian cities will host competitions like the BRICS Games.

How important do you think it is for an athlete to be open with young people in the context of sports development and popularisation?

I am all for dialogue and communication with young athletes. I never had the opportunity to communicate with any of the Olympic champions when I was a child, and that is an omission. I often come to my hometown and talk to children so that they understand that if you set a goal and love your sport, you can achieve a lot.

What is important to talk about at such meetings with the younger generation?

I have always said that without love for your sport it is difficult to achieve any results. I don’t like when parents force their children to take lessons. When a child is young, the coach should instil in him/her the love for the sport. I hope to be heard.

For example, I left ballroom dancing because I didn’t like it. I was transferred to synchronised swimming, and I was happy to go to training. Now, of course, it can be hard, and I don’t always go to training with pleasure. But this is my job and I can proudly say that I am doing what I love.

Do you tell young athletes how to overcome the reluctance to train?

If a person has a goal, he should go to it every day. I try to convey that if you don’t go today, tomorrow you will have a setback. You need to understand that to achieve a goal you need to work hard every day. The reward will be emotions from victories and participation in competitions, pride yourself on that you have travelled this way.

International competitions are a challenge for a person’s stress resistance. Do you remember your first competitions, how did you feel then? How do you deal with stress?

In training we are taught to be ready for anything. Sometimes during the performance of a programme the music can be switched off and we have to show everything until the end. Sometimes they make us wait a long time for the performance so that we can withstand the tension and be ready to start at any moment. So when you go to the start, you know how to behave in extreme situations.

You told in one of your interviews that when you were paired with Svetlana Romashina, you were very afraid to let her down. But you didn’t share your worries with her and just did your job. Do you feel this skill – to take care of other people?

I may not care enough about myself sometimes, but I never feel bad about giving something to people. Not in terms of gifts, but more in terms of some kind of help. I worry more about others than myself.

Do you feel that you inspire people? I think you are an example for many people, not only in sport but also in life – a person who knows how to set goals and achieve them.

I really hope so. We have not only us in the pool where we train, but also children swim. And you have to show by example how to work. I try very hard so that the kids see that I am honest in my work.

There are a lot of great athletes in our country, who of them inspires you most of all?

Let me probably talk about the representatives of my sport. Certainly, it is our most celebrated synchronised athlete Svetlana Romashina. In addition, Natalia Ishchenko. These two people have inspired me since I was a little girl. I watched a lot of competitions with them. And it is a great joy for me that I was lucky enough to work with them.

What exactly inspires you? What do you look up to? What do you like about them?

I am guided by their work, the way they treat their business, how responsible they are. They taught me hard work, determination. They taught me honesty. I am grateful to them. They are sportswomen who have fully dedicated their lives to their favourite cause and their country. Besides, in life they are always ready to lend a helping hand, they are wonderful people.

If you imagine yourself as a filmmaker, what film would you make, what would the story be about?

We’ve been winning for about 25 years. And there is one person behind all this – Tatiana Nikolaevna Pokrovskaya. So I would like to make a film about synchronised swimming and her path.

What are your dreams now?

It’s hard to say. I don’t have any global goals at the moment. I usually set goals for a certain period of time. No more than a year. I hope I get some rest. I consider myself a happy person, I’m happy with the way my fate turned out. That’s a good question, I’ll think about it.

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