Anastasiya RABCHENYUK, Ukraine (400m Hurdles)
Born 14 September 1983, Ternovka, Dnipropetrovsk region (central Ukraine)
Coach: Volodymyr Fedorets
Young Nastia (short for Anastasiya) was very weak and thin as a rake. At the age of 12 she went to artistic gymnastics with her friends but even that age is considered a late start for professional gym. And, moreover, she was too tall. Two years later, her schoolteacher introduced 14-year-old Rabchenyuk to Tetyana Kovalenko, a former hurdler and entry-level coach in athletics.
After only one year of training, Rabchenyuk identified her favourite events – 100m Hurdles and 300m Hurdles. In 1998 she placed third in the Youth Championships of the Dnipropetrovsk region, but her coach took a work pause for maternity leave and Rabchenyuk passed to the more professional athletics group coached by Natalia Andreeva.
“I trained in the same group with international class 400m hurdler Tetyana Debela,” recalled Rabchenyuk. “She was my closest idol in athletics and she taught me a lot of technical and psychological refinements. It was so interesting but so difficult at the same time because I had to go to another town, Pavlograd, every day (1 hour by bus).”
But her work and dedication had not been in vain. In May 1999 Rabchenyuk won the Ukrainian Youth Championships and booked her ticket to Bydgoszcz, Poland, for the World Youth Championships. There she set a 400m Hurdles PB of 60.88 but did not qualify through the first round.
On 18 June, 2000, four days before graduation exercises in her school, Rabchenyuk improved her PB to 58.01, keeping the Masters Sport Standard (Ukrainian athletics classification). In July, she entered Dnepropetrovsk’s High Sports College without any problems.
With her new coach Alexandr Ponomarenko, Anastasiya set a new goal – the Olympic Games in Athens. So they began in training to work on a new promising running rhythm of 15 steps between hurdles.
“Already next year I was running my distance in the new rhythm and with new technique to achieve 58.31 at the National Championships but finished at 7th place only at the European Junior Championships, in Grosseto, Italy,” said Rabchenyuk. “I was too young to understand a lot of advantages in our new training methods. That’s why I decided to come back to my former coach and, in 2002, I moved to Kiev as a first-year student of National University of Sports and Physical Culture.”
Coached in 2003 by the main sprint trainer of the national athletics team, Valerii Cherednychenko, the 19-year-old Rabchenyuk won the senior national championship with a PB 56.52. Two weeks later, on 19 July, she finished 6th in the European U23 Championships Final (58.06) but achieved a bronze medal at World University Games in Daegu, South Korea, on 30 August.
“It was a successful finish to a good season,” Rabchenyuk confirmed. “It was my first medal from official competition. I improved my own record to 56.30 in Daegu’s Final and only then believed that I could become an international class hurdler.” The next year, 2004, she won the National Championship in Yalta with 56.39 but could not meet the Olympic standard.
In November 2004 Rabchenyuk moved to another group coached by Volodymyr Fedorets (former coach of Olympic champion, Olga Bryzhina). Their first year was one of experiment, muscle strengthening, and technical work. Nevertheless, on 14 June 2005 Rabchenyuk set a new PB in Lucerne (56.14), won the National Championships in Kiev (56.56) and recorded 57.13 in the Semi-Finals of the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey.
Rabchenyuk enjoyed the season because she felt on the same wavelength as her coach and liked the new training method. Above all, her boyfriend – the young specialist in psychology and former Master Class hurdler in 110m Hurdles Sergey Basenko – became assistant coach in their group.
In 2006 Rabchenyuk’s old dreams were realised. On 15 June, in Kiev, she ran the 400m Hurdles under 56sec (55.80), the standard of International Class Sports Master (Ukrainian classification). On 22 July she ran in the National Final against Ukrainian record holder and Athens Olympic bronze medalist Tetiana Tereschuk-Antipova. Moreover, she finished ahead her idol with a PB 54.73 and was very surprised.
Both were picked for the European Championships, in Göteborg, but Rabchenyuk was not strong enough for heats, Semi-Finals and Final on three successive days, and could finish only 8th (55.74).
The 2007 winter was experimental for Rabchenyk. She ran short hurdles distances only and performed a lot of lifting in training. She became stronger but also concerned about pain in her leg. Achilles bursitis became increasingly inflamed during the summer and she could not train with 100% power. However, she succeeded in beating the odds at the World University Games in Bangkok, taking 2nd place (55.98) but she did not survive the first round at the World Championships in Osaka.
Rabchenyuk had a better preparation for the Beijing Olympics. She won all her starts during summer season 2008, including at the European Cup in Annecy, France, with a PB 54.64. “All Ukrainian journalists asked me when I’ll be able to break the national record in 400m Hurdles (53.37) set by Tetiana Tereshchuk-Antipova in the Athens Semi-Final,” she says, laughing. “The national record is my aim but objectively I was not ready to run so fast in 2008.”
Nastya’s goal for Beijing was to run under 54 seconds and on the “Bird Nest” track she did it at Final, finishing fourth with personal best result 53.96. But after the Olympic finish she was not too happy. Rabchenyuk had lost by 8 hundredths to the bronze medalist, Tasha Danvers from Great Britain, and 6 of them she lost at start reaction.
“After Beijing’s Semi-Final I made a deep analysis of my own abilities and the shape of all my main rivals and I was sure that I was able to win the medal,” recalled Anastasia. “I stood at the start line before final race, thinking about technical details of my run, and repeated in my mind ‘Nastya, you can do it. Just do your best race…’ After 300 meters I was just 6 or 7. But my trump card is my powerful finish kick. I mobilized all my forces in the homestretch but it was not enough for take the medal.”
Ukrainian journalists named Rabchenyuk’s final race in Beijing the brightest event of Olympic Athletics for Ukraine. “But I wept bitterly and didn’t want to speak with anyone,” Anastasiya tells. “It must be confessed that I think till now that I didn’t take the fourth place in Beijing Olympics, but I lost the bronze Olympic medal despite coming to Beijing as a newcomer in the company of high level international athletes.”
Two weeks later, at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Rabchenyuk finished second after Beijing winner Melaine Walker, but defeated silver and bronze Olympic medalists Sheena Tosta and Tasha Danvers.
“Finally I decided there is no reason to be upset. I had a great season with a beautiful ending. On the 3rd of October I got married to my boyfriend. We had an amazing wedding. My appearance in wedding dress at the little stadium created a big furore.”
Later at the Ukrainian athletics awards ceremony “Athena 2008” Anastasiya Rabchenyuk was named “Beauty of Athletics”.
Rabchenyuk’s usual preparation for the next season was affected by the financial crisis in Ukraine. “In spite of this fact, I began my summer season 2009 not bad. Certainly, I expected to improve my results from one event to another, but after a few events in June I felt tiredness. My silver medal from the first European Team Championships didn’t bring satisfaction for me. And after the Golden League event in Rome we decided to cancel all competitions and focus on preparation for the World Championships in Berlin. I’m feeling I need a little rest, both physical and spiritual. Let’s see at Berlin’s track what results I’ll be ready to do.”
400m Hurdles: 53.96 (2008)
400m Hurdles: 1999: 60.88; 2000: 58.01; 2001: 58.31; 2002: 58.38; 2003: 56.30; 2004: 56.39; 2005: 56.14; 2006: 54.73; 2007: 55.48; 2008: 53.96; 2009: 54.74
1999 h World Youth Championships
2001 7th European Junior Championships
2003 3rd World University Games
2003 6th European U23 Championships
2004 7th European Cup
2005 SF World University Games
2006 8th European Championships
2007 2nd World University Games
2008 1st European Cup
2008 4th Olympic Games
2008 2nd World Athletics Final
2009 2nd European Team Championships
Prepared by Liudmyla Iakusheva for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2009.