Updated 28 April 2008
Elena GINKO, Belarus (20k/50k Walk)
Born: 30 July, 1976, Svetlogorsk, Gomel region
Height: 1.70; Weight: 54kg
Coach: Boris Drozdov
Some dream of becoming an actor, some a doctor. Elena Ginko, since her childhood, dreamt of sports. Her father had a reputation as an aficionado of sports and he managed to entrain his daughter with this preoccupation. Active and energetic at school, Elena took part in many school competitions. For some time she went in for swimming and, in the fourth class, at the age of 11, she fell for athletics. She went to sport school in her native town, Svetlogorsk, to trainer Valentine Volodkovich, with whom she began her path to the top.
After several years of study Ginko was advised by a young trainer (she doesn’t remember her name) to try race walking and she agreed. At the same time she ran middle distances. The new trainer did not work at the school for long - she got married and moved to another town - but Ginko (born Elena Ryzhova) nevertheless continued walking.
At 14, Ginko competed in the National Championship among coevals in Vitebsk. Young walkers at first walked 2km and then 3km. In a combination of these distances, she took fourth place and, in the next year, second place. After that the successful trainer, Feodor Kulakovsky, suggested she to move to Mogilyov, to study in the Regional school of Olympic reserves. Kulakovsky was the trainer of double World Championships bronze medallist, Valentina Tsybulskaya, and other known walkers.
When she was 15, after moving to Mogilyov, to the Regional School of Olympic reserves, Ginko began to succeed. Training in close proximity to famous athletes brought a lot of advantage. By the end of year she executed the requirements to become a candidate for the master of sports, and the next year she became a master of sports.
“If I had doubts concerning my sports future before, in Mogilyov I understood, that I can do much in sports,” Ginko said. “I have been provided in school with everything I need - meals, training equipment - and I didn’t depend on my parents. All I had to do was train and produce results. Victories urged me on even more, encouraged me to train with greater energy. Sport became my profession.”
A meeting with Vict?r Ginko, the leader of the Belarusian team in the 50km Walk, was a happy event in her life. In 1997 they decided to get married. The husband became her watchful assistant, always ready to help and advise with training and performance.
But Elena’s path was not smooth. Having excessive desire to show her best, she frequently failed to reach the finish because of disqualification. In 2005 she was 5th in the 20km Walk at the Russian open championship in Adler, setting what remains a career best 1:28:11, but she competed hors concours, meaning that, even if she had won, she would not have been awarded a medal. In the World Championships, in Helsinki, she was 13th (1:31:36).
In 2006, at the World Cup in La Coruña, the Belarus team took third place, with Ginko eighth. Ginko’s biggest success came only last year, in the European Cup in England, at Royal Leamington Spa, where she was third in the 20k Walk and Belarus won the women’s first prize. She will remember it for a long time. She wanted a medal very much but, before the start, she tried not to think about it. Anything could happen, especially in a discipline where the judges play such a critical part.
At 15km the Russian, Olga Kaniskina, and the Belarusian, Ryta Turava, made a break while Ginko stayed behind in the second group. At 16km Ginko increased her tempo and closed on the two leaders, forging a gap which ensured her third place. Turava’s victory, Ginko’s third place, and Sniazhana Yurchanka (12th) secured a team victory for Belarus. “Ryta is an obvious leader, a favourite in our team,” Ginko said. “She always helps in difficult situations. Her presence adds confidence. Her presence is invaluable, especially at team competitions.”
Prior to Leamington Spa, Ginko had many successful performances at less significant competitions which, nonetheless, were valuable in her sports career. In the 2007 Race Walking Grand Prix, she finished second in Naucalpan, Mexico, in March, and, three months later, in Krakow, Poland, third. She adds to this list the Olympic Games in Athens, where she was ninth. Also in her memory is a victory at 50km in Scanzorosciate, Italy, in 2004 (4:12:16). Her husband Vict?r won the 100km Walk there.
In the IAAF World Race Walking Cup, in Cheboksary, Ginko will not only compete for a top place but also for a place in the Olympic Games. She has already won the Olympic license, but it is necessary for her to finish in the first ten. Only then will an Olympic team spot be guaranteed to her.
10km Walk: 42:53 (2005)
20km Walk: 1:28:11 (2005)
50km Walk: 4:12:16 (2004)
10km Walk: 2002 - 43:52; 2004 - 44:28; 2005 - 42:53; 2006 - 43:38.3; 2008 - 45:33.
20km Walk: 2001 - 1:33:21; 2002 - 1:30:57; 2003 - 1:37:23; 2004 - 1:29:02; 2005 - 1:28:11; 2006 - 1:29:06; 2007 - 1:28:29; 2008 - 1:37:40.
50km Walk: 2002 - 4:19:13; 2004 - 4:12:16.
2001 17th EAA Race Walking Cup
2004 9th Olympic Games
2005 13th World Championships
2007 2nd IAAF Race Walking Challenge
2007 3rd IAAF Race Walking Challenge
2007 3rd EAA Race Walking Cup
Prepared by Mikhail Dubitski for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.