Performed in Kazan with a forty degrees fever
Angelika, allow us to congratulate you on your appointment as an ambassador of the Games in Ekaterinburg. As the first order of business, we can't help but ask you, as a participant of the Kazan 2013 Universiade, what did that performance mean to the team?
Thank you very much! You know, our team has always had a strict condition - to never lose a single competition.We always feel a tremendous responsibility, regardless of the tournament level. The coach was telling us at the time that there will be many strong opponents and that we need to put more work in, train, and to be ten heads and shoulders ahead. We went there with the attitude to fight for victory.
Sometimes not everything is up to preparedness and attitude. Equipment can let you down sometimes...
Yes. The music has cut off during our performance in Kazan, and it was a big trial for the team. We could not stop because that would deduct from our score, and we would have lost. I am not entirely sure how it happened, but our team, without sharing a word, mobilized. You see, it is extremely difficult for eight people to do something synchronously in silence. Half the girls were underwater, and we could not communicate. I remember that we all were really scared but nobody stopped and we continued in silence. I remember the stadium began beating the music's rhythm, which helped us finish the performance. The whistle sounded, we got out of the water, and we were told that we will now have to do it all over again. I was already beginning to lose consciousness by that time.
Famously, that performance was two, if not three, times more trying for you personally.
It so happened that I got sick on the eve of the competition and had to perform with a 40 degrees fever. I felt horrible. We do not have any replaceable spots, so not performing was not an option. Finishing a performance in our sport is like running a marathon. With a fever of 40 I could not physically run another marathon.
Nonetheless, you went out the second time.
Yes. I remember standing right before the entrance. Remember being given smelling salts and told: "Angelika, you must. There is no other option." I remember a few times during the performance when I began losing consciousness. But there was also the fear that I did not have the right to make a mistake, I could not let the team and the country down. The stadium was full, everyone was cheering us on, and I could not faint.
An event like this changes people. Has it changed you?
After that, I realized that anything is possible. A person has limitless potential, and all the barriers are in your head. I didn't even attend the medal ceremony. Still, I am very proud of myself as I have seen all of it through even though it was really hard and scary.
Let us talk about more positive experiences in Kazan. What was the most memorable?
The Athletes' Village has definitely left a great impression. Many young people of my age. It was amazing to meet familiar athletes from across the globe. I lived in Moscow and studied at the Olympic College, and many guys at the Village did as well. It was a real celebration of student life.
Did the city impress you?
Kazan was really beautiful that year. Many new sporting venues. We were really happy with that trip. Although we have had many large competitions behind us at that point, that one was really memorable. It was colorful and homely.
You came to Kazan after the Olympic Games in London and can compare the two.
Yes! Everyone, who has attended at least a single ceremony at the London Olympics, was absolutely delighted. Emotions were very comparable. Although the level of tension in Kazan was slightly lower. The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed. That I definitely remember!
Kazan-2013, for you, was one of the biggest competitions that were held in Russia. Were your relatives and friends able to attend?
Yes, they were there. I do have to mention the overall support from the stands. We have not experienced anything like that anywhere else in the world or at other competitions. That was, most likely, the first time we realized what support of our fans and our people truly means. That was the first time we felt the support of our country and it was amazing!
The thesis defense fell on an Olympics year
Speaking of your family. You live in Moscow right now. What about them?
All my family is in Ekaterinburg. I have a lot of friends there. I keep in touch with everyone.
Do you visit Ekaterinburg often? Or has it become difficult nowadays?
No, not difficult at all. I visit whenever I want to see my family. I spend weekends there with great pleasure.
You have graduated from the Ural Federal Pedagogical University with a red diploma (Means with distinction - note Ekat2023). At the same time you were studying, you trained in Moscow and actively performed all around the world. Why did you choose that particular university?
I had the option to study in Moscow. But I am a big patriot of my native land. I love Ekaterinburg and have many things connecting me to it. I have decided to attend and graduate from a university in Ekaterinburg. Studying in my native city was a big priority for me.
How hard was combining studies and a sporting career?
That was another important point in choosing a university. In our sport, it is very hard to do everything. We train 10-12 hours a day, effectively with no weekends. Some exceptions can only be made in the case of exams or thesis defense.
So how did you manage?
I had a good relationship with the university and an understanding with my teachers. My thesis defense fell on an Olympics year. I would fly in and work through my studies whenever I could. The fact that I chose a major linked to my activities was a great help. It would probably be impossible have I chosen a different direction. I had a general understanding and only had to learn theory and pass the exams. I flew in for my thesis defense right after the Olympics. I was studying very seriously for it and have successfully passed it.
I am not afraid to explore something new
Are there any outstanding places in your native city that you recommend guests of the Games to visit?
I really enjoy taking walks in Ekaterinburg's center. It is filled with parks and squares. Many places have a very developed infrastructure and are beautiful and pleasant to be at. Ever since childhood, I have really loved Plotinka. For me, it is a special place. It is always filled with people taking walks. There is a spirit of movement and celebration. Something is always happening there. I have to mention my native district - Uralmash. Again, it is connected to my childhood - the swimming pool and the school I went to are there. And the "White Tower". Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate it.
And in the region?
I am in complete awe of the Museum of Military and Automotive Equipment in Verkhnyaya Pyshma. It is very stunning. It is on par with the world museums. Apart from equipment, there is a floor with military awards and medals. I was so amazed by them, that I have designed my own jewelry collection inspired by what I have seen. And it was a success!
Speaking of automobiles. We have launched a little marathon section, where Games ambassadors ask each other unusual questions. You have a question from racing driver Sergei Kariakin: "Angelika, you have successfully transitioned from synchronized swimming to surfing. How about trying yourself in the role of a racing driver as well? Using "Dakar" as an example: a motorbike, a quad, an off-roader, or a truck. Behind the wheel of which vehicle can you imagine yourself?"
Interesting question. I am always in favor of trying something new and not being afraid to change your field of activity. It inspires me, and I really enjoy it. I have a driver's license, but I cannot say that I am very proficient with vehicles. I am not even that good on a bike. Not to mention a moped or a motorbike. They look really nice but are not for me.
How do you feel about extreme sports overall?
I love the extreme! Just not the one using vehicles.
So something like surfing, which you have successfully transitioned to from the synchronized swimming?
Yes! Water sports are ideal for me. Water is my element. It so happened that I have transitioned to an extreme sport that had nothing to do with synchronized swimming. Nonetheless, It feels organic, great, and I have already begun to show good results.
Was the transition hard?
On the contrary, it was very easy. In 2015, after I have finished my career as a synchronized swimmer, I went on a holiday abroad. There, I tried surfing as an amateur. It was love at first sight. I got on the surfing board right away. The instructor was shouting at everyone else, "Row, row harder!" To me, he was shouting, "Angelika, stop rowing!" That was because I was in excellent shape after the World Championship. I understood straight away that this was for me. There were and are some aspects that I never had to face in synchronized swimming and are hard for me. But overall, the switch went smoothly.
You have achieved everything you could in synchronized swimming. Right now, you are trying surfing. Where do you see yourself at the end of your sporting career?
I prefer not to dwell on tomorrow and live in the moment.
Let us get back to your status as the Games ambassador. Is this your first time in such a role?
For a sporting event - yes. I enjoy being an inspiration, and I love representing my country. I want to keep developing myself in this field. I have had a very interesting experience on television. I was invited as a host, and I was very inspired by it. We will see where it will lead, but I am working in this direction.
So public activity is more up your alley? Working with an audience?
Public activity, sports. I really enjoy talking to children. I have recently held my own tournament for young girls synchronized swimmers.
What about teaching? Choreography?
A definite no to teaching. I was told a lot that I would be a good coach, but it is not something I want to dedicate myself to. It just doesn't feel right for me.
Bringing our conversation to a close, what would you wish to the competitors and guests of the 2023 World University Games in Ekaterinburg?
To spectators, I wish to enjoy this celebration. It is really great that it will be held in my native city. To competitors, of course, I wish victories. We are all striving towards the same goal - a gold medal. I want to wish everyone to get their gold medal. Be it in studies or in sports. I wish everyone to keep striving for their goal and to achieve results - it is vital. The most important is to believe, keep going forward and never give up.
You have a very memorable line regarding training: if a person really wants it, they can fly.
Yes. I am absolutely positive about it.
You have felt it yourself.
Absolutely. I began as an Ural synchronized swimmer, who no one expected to achieve anything significant on the Russian stage, let alone becoming an Olympic champion. At the very least, at first, no one believed that. It seemed absolutely impossible. That turned out to be wrong. After that, every time I tried something new, I would set myself another goal. I believed that achieving success is possible, even if through obstacles and hardships. I believe every person is capable of that!