Updated 05 August 2012
Antonina KRIVOSHAPKA, Russia (400 m)
Born: 21 July 1987, Rostov-na-Donu
1.68 m/ 59 kg
Coach: Vladimir Tipayev
“Curved hat” is the translation of Antonina’s last name in Russian. And only thanks to the recent bright results she taught the world to spell and say it correctly. Born in the Russian town of Rostov-na-Donu, Krivoshapka at just 25 has already experienced in sports everything – from national records to complete oblivion.
Her career was developing brightly up to 2004. By that time Krivoshapka had placed second at the World Youth Championships in 2003 and 5th in the heats of the World Junior Championships in 2004. Not a big deal for the Russian school of 400 m running, but still – reasonable enough to hope for a bright future.
Antonina’s hopes however were almost ruined in 2005. She still prefers not to talk about this, but her results tell the story. After Antonina improved her personal record in 2003 by more than a second and achieved an impressive 53.09 for a 16-year-old, in 2004 she went down to 53.67, and the following two years did not run faster than 55.03. Krivoshapka competed very rarely in 2005 and 2006, completely missing the 2006 outdoor season. She seemed to finish her career the same as many promising young athletes do, not able to find their place in senior sports.
“Without going into much detail, I would say that at the time I had huge problems with my coach,” Krivoshapka says. “He did not believe in me, and I was left on my own. I had nowhere to live as they wanted to fire me from the sports school, and no money and conditions to train. To be honest, I was also afraid that it was the end of it…”
But Krivoshapka found the way out – and in 2006 moved to Volgograd, which is famous for its athletics school and where such stars as Yelena Isinbayeva, Tatyana Lebedeva and Yelena Slesarenko were brought up. New coach Vladimir Tipayev opened for Antonina a new level of her career.
“I regret I did not go to Volgograd earlier, in 2005,” Krivoshapka admits. “But imagine how hard it was for me to be left without family, in a new town, at just 18. In Volgograd I had to stay in a dorm. To share my room with new friends, to wash and clean by myself, and I so much missed my parents… I only repeated to myself, “Tonia, you must be patient,” and step by step things started going well.”
One of the first decisions of Krivoshapka at her new base was to lose weight. “I used to be a bit clumsy, and never liked it. At the new place I was far away from home cookies, and lost about 5 kilos,” Krivoshapka smiles.
Progress with the new coach came fast. In 2007, Antonina made her debut at the senior national championships, and also ran her PB, 52.32. In 2008 she won the national U23 championships and further improved to 51.24. But even progressing one second a year seemed nothing compared to what followed. In 2009, Krivoshapka first won two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships in Turin, which was the first senior international event in her career. And outdoors, at the national trials in Cheboksary, Krivoshapka ran 49.29 already in the semi-final, and at just 22 years of age set the national U23 record and the second result in the history of Russian 400 m running. She won the final with 49.71, and for the first time declared herself as the leader of the national team.
“People were looking at me as if they were dreaming,” Krivoshapka recalls. “But if you follow my results, the progress was quite natural. After three years together with my coach we started to understand each other completely. And don’t forget that in 2009 I was just 22 – so by this age I finally matured and got physical strength. My PB did not come from nowhere. I always knew I was getting there, and it was just the matter of time when I would achieve this.”
22-year-old Krivoshapka arrived at her first World Championships, in Berlin, as a hot favorite, with the second best result in the world. She finished third at the 400 m final. Losing only to Sanya Richards and Shericka Williams from Jamaica.
“At the first moment after the finish I thought I was 4th,” Krivoshapka recalls. “I was about to cry, as the fourth place for me is the worst in sports. So close to the medals – but still without them! Then my compatriot Nastia Kapachinskaya came up to me and said: “Why are you so disappointed, you are third!” I looked at the screen and finally smiled. I am not sad about losing to Richards and Williams. They are more experienced, and my career is just starting, everything is ahead.”
“Surprisingly I was not even nervous before my first World Championships final.” These words are actually typical for Krivoshapka, who does not even watch TV and completely ignores the pressure. “I was sleeping everywhere – in the hotel, in the bus on the way to the stadium, in the training field. I was thinking only about how to wake up, not about how afraid I was. People did not believe me when I said I did not know how Sanya Richards looked like before the World Championships. But I really don’t know - why I should run after her and ask for autographs. She is a great athlete, I admire her a lot, but I am focused only on my own running, and not on watching on TV how others run.”
In the 4x400 m relay in Berlin, Krivoshapka won her second bronze medal. She received the baton on the final leg in second place, but again lost to Jamaican Shericka Williams and finished third. “I am sorry I could not win silver for the girls.” In the mixed zone Krivoshapka looked more disappointed than happy. “I would be honest and say that for me the individual bronze is more precious than the relay one. It is maybe the same for any athlete – we love relays, but individual victories feel special.”
Krivoshapka did not have much time to enjoy her success. The white stripe in her career ended already in winter 2010, when Antonina got injured in an extremely stupid situation. “It happened in January, when I was running 60m intervals in training,” Krivoshapka recalls. “Some younger boy did not see me and crossed my way. I rammed into him and fell down on my back. The pain was so strong that I immediately realised it was something serious.”
The back injury forced Krivoshapka to miss the World Indoor Championships 2010 in Doha. She came back in the outdoor season, but obviously lacked basic training to run under 50 seconds again. Krivoshapka was fourth at the national trials in Saransk with 51.16, but managed to finish third at the European Championships in Barcelona, behind her compatriots Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ustalova.
“The European bronze maybe does not seem a big deal for someone who is more experienced, but for me it means a lot,” Krivoshapka said after her race. “Especially after the injury. I was not sure I would be able even to qualify for Barcelona, and winning a medal and sharing my joy with other Russian girls is definitely more than I expected.”
Krivoshapka ended her Barcelona European outdoors debut with the gold in the relay, where the Russians remain undefeated at the European level. And then took a well-deserved rest in her native Rostov-na-Donu.
“I usually go home to see my parents only once a year,” Krivoshapka says. “Sometimes my family comes to Volgograd, and generally when the season is on the way I don’t have time for anything. My best friend from the Russian team is Olympic champion in the 4x100m relay, Yuliya Gushchina. We trained in the same sports club back in Rostov, Yuliya knows all my problems and always supports me.”
In 2011 Krivoshapka made her come back to sub-50 seconds territory, running 49.92 at the trials for the World Championships. This was enough for the second place – Anastasiya Kapachinskaya was even faster with 49.35, but can it be a good sign for Krivoshapka to be finally a kind of underdog and not a favorite?
“The main thing for me is to stay healthy,” Antonina confirmed. “Fortunately my back does not hurt now, but I should always remember about special rehab exercises. I know if I am 100 percent healthy, I would try to do something special in Daegu. And all my career proves that you can never know when will be the breakthrough.”
In Daegu Krivoshapka won her relay bronze and was 5th on the individual distance, but this had nothing to do with the breakthrough. Antonina explained that she was peaking her shape for the Olympic season, and considered everything else a preparation. How she can really run, Krivoshapka showed the following summer in Cheboksary, when she smashed her PB down to 49.16.
“This is a massive result.” Krivoshapka admitted. “But I believe this is not my maximum. As usual I did not follow the results of my competitors from abroad, I even did not know that I set the new World lead. I stay focused and keep believe in myself, this is my credo.”
49.16 (2012) NUR
2002: 54.35; 2003: 53.09; 2004: 53.67; 2005: 55.63/55.03i; 2006: 55.40i; 2007: 52.32; 2008: 51.24; 2009: 49.29; 2010: 50.10; 2011: 49.92; 2012: 49.16
2003 2nd World Youth Championships (Sherbrooke) 53.54
2004 2nd Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary) 53.67
2004 5th World Junior Championships (Grosseto) 55.05
2005 3rd Russian Junior Indoor Championships (Saransk) 55.03
2006 3rd Russian Junior Indoor Championships (Volgograd) 55.40
2007 h Russian Championships (Tula) 53.28
2008 1st Russian U23 Indoor Championships (Penza) 52.17
2008 sf Russian Championships (Kazan) 51.59 (51.24 in h)
2009 1st Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 50.55
2009 1st European Indoor Championships (Turin) 51.18
2009 1st European Indoor Championships (Turin), 4x400 m 3:29.12
2009 1st Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 49.71
2009 3rd World Championships (Berlin) 49.71
2009 3rd World Championships (Berlin), 4x400 m 3:21.64
2010 4th Russian Championships (Saransk) 51.16
2010 3rd European Championships (Barcelona) 50.10
2010 1st European Championships (Barcelona), 4x400 m 3:21.26
2010 2nd Continental Cup (Split), 4x400 m 3:26.58
2011 2nd Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 49.92
2011 5th World Championships (Daegu) 50.66
2011 3rd World Championships (Daegu), 4x400 m 3:19.36
2012 1st Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 49.16
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2011-2012.