Updated 27 July 2008
Anastasiya KAPACHINSKAYA, Russia (200/400m)
Born: 21 November 1979, Moscow
1.73m / 59kg
Coach: Matvey Teliatnikov
Anastasiya Kapachinskaya was born in a sports family. Her mother, Nina Bryntseva, used to be a high jumper with the PB of 1.80. “But remember, back then my mother was jumping not a Fosbury Flop, so it was a solid result,” Anastasiya explains. Her father, Alexander Kapachinskiy, was the champion of the Azerbaijan Republic at 200 and 400m.
After Anastasiya was born, her mother switched from jumping to coaching. Little Nastya travelled to the training camps with her parents and their athletes. Sometime later she joined the athletes and started training herself. “Of course my mother was dreaming I would follow her and become a high jumper,” she said. “I was probably suitable in terms of height but I really lacked coordination. Even up to now this remains my problem.”
In juniors Kapachinskaya won the national championships in sprints many times but was never able to qualify for the World competitions. Still, she managed to prove to her parents that she had the potential to surpass their own sports careers. “I even remember the day my mum realised I can be something in sports,” she recalled. “We were in the summer camp, and I was asked to run 800m at some local competition. I had never run more than 200m before. When I finished second at 800m my mum realised I had both speed and endurance – that is everything to succeed.”
Kapachinskaya joined the Russian senior team in 2001 when she first competed at the World Indoors in Lisbon. She went out in the semi-finals but back then it was considered a good result for the debutante.
Since 1999 Kapachinskaya has been training with the well-known Russian coach Matvey Teliatnikov. “At the moment I joined, Matvey had a really strong group – Yuliya Graudin, Marina Trandenkova, some others,” Kapachinskaya said. “These girls were my motivation to work harder, to progress. Obviously, the coach gave them more attention than to me, but I considered it fair. I was just young and promising while they were already stars.”
Kapachinskaya needed four years from 1999 to prove to her coach that she was a star herself. In 2002 she was 5th at the European Championships, in Munich, clocking 51.69 in 400m. In the 2003 World Indoor Championships, in Birmingham, Kapachinskaya was second in the 200m in 22.80. Finally, in 2003, she achieved the biggest success in her career, finishing second in the 200m at the World Championships, in Paris, with a PB of 22.38. This silver was later upgraded to gold after the doping suspension of Kelli White, of the United States.
“If I were to describe my way to success I would compare it with climbing a mountain,” Kapachinskaya said. “You are climbing to the top and every small step is important. You cannot just find yourself up the mountain, you must climb there. Being on the top is impossible without the hard work before.”
Kapachinskaya’s PB remains at 22.38. In 2003, she did not have much time to stay on top of the mountain. In 2004 she won the 200m at the World Indoor Championships, in Budapest, but some weeks later had to give back the gold medal as her doping sample gave positive result for steroids. A two-year suspension was the outcome.
“I’d say only people from the world of sports can understand me – how it feels to give back the gold medal,” Kapachinskaya recalled. “I’ve become much wiser since then. Now I even think that everything happened was for the better. I was so tired that, but for this suspension, I think I would just have ended my career.
“There was so much pressure, so many people pushing me and demanding high results. I was absolutely exhausted emotionally. All I wanted was to lay in the bed and look at the ceiling. I just could not stand this pressure for long. It was as if somewhere from the heaven they said to me: ‘Wait, your time will come later.’ Definitely now I am much stronger mentally.”
During her suspension, Kapachinskaya was strong enough not to give up training. In 2006 she came back – with a new distance and a new coach. And if the switch to 400m was predictable, as she used to combine 200 and 400m before, leaving for the US to train with the ex-World record holder in 400m Hurdles, Tatyana Zelentsova, was a complete surprise.
“It was a very interesting chapter in my life,” Kapachinskaya explained. “I was living in Tatyana’s house, with her family, training on the track that was nearby. I was running hurdles but just to strengthen my muscles. I was never going to run 400m Hurdles professionally. It was really very useful for me to change the environment, to meet new people, to take rest from the problems I met in Russia. But, due to family reasons, I can’t live abroad. So I stayed in the US from September 2006 until May 2007 and then came back.”
Zelentsova, who is married to an American, lives for half a year in the US and for half a year in Russia. She came to Moscow with Kapachinskaya but afterwards had to go back to Arkansas alone. Kapachinskaya was again training with Matvey Teliatnikov. “I believe we just needed rest from each other,” she said. “Of course we sometimes have disputes but it is normal for work. He is the coach who helped me succeed. I trust him.”
However, neither the travel to the US nor the return to Teliatnikov produced the desired result. After the suspension Kapachinskaya was hardly recognisable. She did not manage to qualify for the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka, finishing only 11th at the national trials in the 400m (52.14). She didn’t manage to run faster that year. But the reason for poor results had nothing to do with training.
“There was a tragedy in my family,” Kapachinskaya said. “It’s hard for me to say, but my mum is no longer in this world with me. She is not here physically but she is always with me, in my heart. When it happened I wanted to give up sports. Only Matvey Teliatnikov found the right words to change my mind. He said I had never been to the Olympics and this must be the dream for any athlete. My mum would probably like to see me there. I took some time to think it over and finally decided to stay at least until Beijing.”
In 2008 Kapachinskaya was again among the leaders. Unlike in 2003, she made the 400m her main distance, still combining it with 200m. She qualified in both for the Olympics, winning the national trials at 200m (22.77) and finishing second at 400m (50.20). In the 400m Kapachinskaya lost to another ex-200m runner, Yuliya Guschina (50.10).
“I won’t say that switching mainly to 400m was a great change,” Kapachinskaya said. “Always, even when running only 200m, I was doing the training more like for 400m than for 100m. I have never trained only for sprints. I have always worked on endurance as well. It was hard to find my right pace at 400m as you should not run 100 per cent from the start, unlike in the 200m. I am still not perfect but I am progressing, and this is the main thing.”
Doubling at 200 and 400m at the Olympics is, according to Kapachinskaya, too tough because of the schedule and hardly possible for her. Her decision is to run 400m and 4x400m. She is the first in reserve in 200m, so still keeps the chance to compete there. “I always answer to the question of which distance I’m going to run like ‘we’ll see’,” she smiled. “These are probably too common words, but it’s true. I am now an experienced athlete and I know you never can be sure in sports. 400m comes first at the Olympics so I run it. Afterwards everything will depend on my result and my physical condition.”
What are her goals for the Olympics? Although she is ranked fourth for 2008 in the IAAF Top Lists at 400m, Kapachinskaya remains cautious about her chances. “I still have much less experience in this distance than the American Sanya Richards and many others,” she said. “But I want at least to fight, to make a real battle in the final. Like I say, you must do everything now so as to have no regrets later. I don’t know if I will have a second chance to compete at the Olympics. I want to show everything I can now, so later, when I remember this Games, it would be about self-satisfaction and not pain.
“My mum liked to say: “You must fight until the very end, even if you are already last with no chances. Today you are the last but tomorrow you may win”. This was her motto. And I want to make it mine.”.
200m: 22.38 (2003)
400m: 50.02 (2008)
200/400: 2000: 23.80/-; 2001: 23.24/52.94; 2002: 23.41/51.39; 2003: 22.38/ 50.74; 2004: 22.71/-; 2006: 22.80/51.16; 2007: 23.73/52.14; 2008: 22.48/50.02.
2002 6th European Cup (Stuttgart, 400m) 53.54
2002 5th European Championships (Munich, 400m) 51.69
2003 2nd World Indoor Championships (Birmingham, 200m) 22.80i
2003 1st European Champions Cup, groups A,B (Valencia, 200m) 22.58
2003 1st European Champions Cup, groups A. B (Valencia, 400m) 51.46
2003 1st European Cup, Super league (Florence, 200m) 22.71
2003 1st World Championships (Paris, 200m) 22.38
2003 2nd World Championships (Paris, 4x400 m relay) 3:22.91
2003 3rd World Athletics Final (Monaco, 200m) 22.57
2007 2nd European Champions Cup, groups A, B (Albufeira, 400m) 53.05
2008 1st Russian Championships (Kazan, 200m) 22.77
2008 2nd Russian Championships (Kazan, 400m) 50.20
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for IAAF “Focus on athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2008.