Updated 9 August 2011
Alsu MURTAZINA, Russia (Triple Jump)
Born 12 December 1987, Kazan, Tatarstan
1.74m / 59kg
Coach: Denis Kapustin
Russian female triple jumpers have an amazing role model. Tatyana Lebedeva has inspired a lot of talented jumpers with her World and Olympic medals since the early 2000s. But in the meantime, while Lebedeva is taking a break to give birth to her second daughter, her fellow teammates got a chance to shine. And Alsu Murtazina wants to make the best of this opportunity.
“The level of competition in Russian triple jump decreased recently, but maybe that’s one of the reasons I decided to stay in this event. I can be among the leaders, I can win. Once I’ve felt this taste of victory I actually liked it,” Murtazina admitted.
Alsu was involved in sports since her early school years. Her physical education teacher always encouraged her to compete at school in running, basketball and handball competitions. “I also liked singing and dancing. I attended the school choir. We took part in different contests and it was interesting. I didn’t take athletics - at that time it was sprinting - seriously,” Murtazina said.
But she became fully committed in 2005, when she switched coaches. Murtazina started to work with her fellow townsman, European 1994 champion and Olympic 2000 bronze medallist in triple jump, Denis Kapustin. “I tried long jump, because I always liked it, but after a few sessions we decided that triple is more suitable for me. My coach is very exacting, he is a maximalist. But our cooperation seems to bring me a continuous progress, so I’m very comfortable with it and I’m extremely thankful to him,” Murtazina said.
It’s important for Alsu that she can continue training back home in Kazan. “We have amazing facilities here – stadium, indoor 400-metres track, swimming pool – everything is new or renovated for the World Universiade 2013, very convenient and close by. And I have a lot of relatives here, so it’s good to see them often,” Murtazina said.
The first three years of work under the direction of Kapustin changed a lot in Murtazina’s life. She was studying Tatar philology full time at the Kazan State University, but in 2008, Kapustin demanded of her to transfer to distance learning to make sure that Alsu gave athletics her best. And that year, her first big success actually came.
In 2008, Murtazina leaped over 14 metres for the first time in her life. In fact, well over: 14.28m. This jump brought her the title of national U23 indoor champion. “We worked very hard for that 14m jump to happen. It was an important milestone for me. Unfortunately, in the outdoor season I had to compete with injury. But I didn’t really count on making the Olympic team, I was still in the U23 age category after all,” Murtazina said. Nevertheless, she ended up eighth in the national final with a decent result of 14.06m.
Next year, Alsu continued to focus on U23 major championships. At the national U23 championships, held in her native town, Kazan, she was just flying: 14.44m – huge PB, gold medal and a ticket to the European U23 Championships. If only she could replicate that jump in Kaunas, she would be unbeaten. But coming to the stadium as a clear favourite isn’t an easy task. “I was very nervous. I can say I had an emotional burnout. It affected my performance a lot. I lost concentration during the qualification and made a technical mistake that resulted in an injury. So I just couldn’t be at my best in the final,” Murtazina recalled. With a 13.70m jump, Alsu settled for sixth place, with gold going to Paraskevi Papahristou from Greece.
In 2010, Murtazina was struggling with a chronic back injury that she aggravated when competing at the Israeli championships in Tel Aviv just before the Russian Championships. Since then, she had to compete with a special belt to support her waist vertebrae and lower back muscles. “Five days prior to the National Championships, I told coach Kapustin that I didn’t want to compete. At that time I was only warming up and not doing any specific work at my training sessions for a week or so. But he made me go to Saransk to prove that I worked hard for a reason,” Alsu said.
The injury didn’t prevent Murtazina from gaining silver at the Nationals, with a windy 14.63m attempt and a legal 14.31m. She was second to Nadezhda Alekhina, who was known for jumping 15+ metres on home soil, but underperforming on the major stage. In Barcelona, the scenario was pretty much the same. Alekhina lost the fight for bronze to her former compatriot, Svetlana Bolshakova (now representing Belgium), with a 14.45m jump. Murtazina found herself in 12th place with a mediocre result of 13.65m. “It was the logical consequence to my low-key training regimen due to the injury. I didn’t have my speed in the approach, so I just couldn’t jump far. But I wasn’t railed at by the coaches,” Murtazina said.
There was no time to be upset. Alsu entered the 2011 indoor season healthy and confident. The national winter trials for the Paris European Indoors were tough: only 11 cm divided the second and the fifth place. Murtazina was third and set to miss the European Indoors. That gave her the time to regroup and work on the weaknesses, with the more important championships in sight.
Alsu made the first important step to success in Cheboksary, winning the national trials with a PB of 14.55m. It was simply an ideal competition: familiar stadium, that saw her winning a number of regional championships, warm weather, welcoming crowd. And more importantly the take-off board appeared to finally be friendly. “I struggled with faults for months. I knew that I had long jumps in me, but all my good attempts were consistently produced under a red flag. I will try hard to make good friends with the board in Daegu,” Alsu assured.
It’s very important for Murtazina that she will step on the world scene having her teammate around. The second place in Cheboksary went to another Tatarstan-born jumper, Anna Kuropatkina, who is also coached by Denis Kapustin. “Anna came to coach Kapustin just a year ago. I like it, because now I have a training partner that I didn’t have before. At the Russian Team Championships, she beat me as I was struggling with the take-off, in Cheboksary it was my turn to win. I’m happy to see her progress and we will definitely support each other in Korea,” Alsu said.
With Lebedeva, Alekhina and Pyatykh missing this season, Murtazina and Kuropatkina will have to deal with the status of national leaders for the first time. “I think our event in Russia really lacks stars that could drive the level of competition, such as Tatyana Lebedeva, for example. She is an extraordinary athlete. I can’t say though that she was my role model in jumping technique, we are too different. The only thing I could possibly adopt is her speed. I don’t have any particular idols in terms of technique; I just try to execute what my coach tells me. Probably, I can single out Ukrainian Olga Saladuha. If I could borrow something from her, I might even out-jump her someday,” Murtazina said.
With such important goals in mind as the Daegu World Championships and London Olympics, Murtzaina still gives a lot of attention to her education. She just completed a degree in philology and now she is entering the Kazan Aviation Institute for the post-graduate course in PR-management. It won’t be easy to train and study at the same time, but Alsu got used to it during the past years and work is a thing that she is never afraid of: “I can’t see myself as that kind of prodigy athlete, like Darya Klishina is, for example. I need to work really hard and to be extremely persistent to be the first. I’m a workaholic and that’s the secret of my success.”
2007: 13.71; 2008: 14.21(14.28i); 2009: 14.44; 2010: 14.31 (14.63w); 2011: 14.55
2009 6th European U23 Championships (Kaunas) 13.70
2010 12th European Championships (Barcelona) 13.65 (14.07q)
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2011