Created 27 July 2012
Elena LASHMANOVA, Russia
(20 km Race Walk)
Born 9 April 1992, Saransk
1.70m / 49kg
Coach: Viktor Chegin, Natalya Yanglyaeva, Vera Nacharkina, Konstantin Nacharkin
20-year-old Elena Lashmanova, another jewel from the famous race walking coach Victor Chegin treasury, won each and every international competition that she had during her not very long athletic career. The Olympic year may have come too early for her first season at the senior distance to carry on with this tradition, but the World Cup in Saransk showed that she wouldn’t be lost among more experienced rivals in London.
Lashmanova as a kid was keen on playing tennis and dancing, but as hundreds of the children born in the capital of the Russian race walking didn’t escape trying out this event. “My cousins were doing race walking, so one day I took my friend Katya and we signed up for the kids’ race walking group. I was probably 12 years old then. I wasn’t too successful at the beginning, but I somehow understood that it can become more that a hobby,” Lashmanova recalled.
Lashmanova’s first coach was Natalya Yanglyaeva, and as it’s established in Saransk Olympic Training Center juniors are also supervised by Vera Nacharkina and Konstantin Nacharkin until they are transferred to the elite group of Viktor Chegin.
The first major international competition for Lashmanova was the World Youth Championships in Bressanone. She won the competition, but wasn’t satisfied with the time. “It was an amazing trip for the first international competition. We lived in the mountains; it was so different from what we see every day in Russia. But I indeed wasn’t happy with my time, I think my nerves let me down during the race,” Lashmanova said.
The following year Elena headed for the World Junior Championships, in Moncton, as a favourite, and she didn’t disappoint her Russian fans. From the first steps Lashmanova and other talented Russian Anna Lukyanova, World Cup junior medallist, set such a high pace that their rivals didn’t even try to close the gap between the pack and the Russians. It was only the homestretch that determined who got the gold, and it was Lashmanova.
This time, unlike the previous year, she was happy not only with the win, but with the time as well. “Viktor Chegin told us to lead in turn, switching every 1km. It helped us to survive the heat. But the most important thing for us was to win the first two places for the team, no matter who was first on the finish line, so we did everything to make sure that we fulfilled the plan. After the competition we wanted to take a ride to the ocean shore, but unfortunately the weather didn’t let us make that trip,” Lashmanova said.
For her last junior year Lashmanova had two main races to focus on. The first one was the European Cup, in May. She went to Portugal as the second best in the team, as at the Russian Winter Championships she was beaten by her peer Svetlana Vasilyeva by one minute. In Olhão it was Lashmanova who finished the course almost one minute faster than
“I needed to be in the top-two among the Russians to be selected for the European Junior Championships. We didn’t apply any team strategy with my training partner Svetlana Vasilieva, but we both qualified for Tallinn. I was confident that I can win the race, so I was walking with this thought in mind all along. It was not my first road race, but this time we were racing together with the male 50km walkers, it was a bit unusual,” Elena recalled.
Two months later the Russians were lining up against each other at the Tallinn European Junior Championships. The first nine laps were a “déjà vu” from Moncton, with world leader Vasilyeva instead of Lukyanova. Lashmanova and Vasilyeva were far ahead of the pack, keeping step with each other and synchronously checking the pace at their watches. But on the tenth lap Lashmanova accelerated leaving Vasilyeva behind. Elena managed to maintain this pace until the last meters and beat Vera Sokolova’s World junior record finishing in 42:59.48. Vasilyeva finished two minutes later winning the silver and the bronze, another two minutes later, went to the third Russian Anna Yermina.
“We were in Tallinn with coach Nacharkina, and right before the competition coach Chegin called her from Saransk and said that I was ready for 43 minutes and that I had to set the proper pace from the start. I didn’t really believe his words, but I gave it a go. I remember looking at the time every lap to make sure that I’m not slowing down. With 500m to go I knew I had to accelerate and I did it. Of course I was very happy with the race, but, you know, every time I cross the finish line I start thinking that I could have done better,” Lashmanova smiled.
Lashmanova’s first 20km race was the National Winter Championships in Sochi in February of 2012. Elena, who was only 19 years old at that point, finished in the second place behind Elmira Alembekova with the team stars Olga Kaniskina and Anisya Kirdyapkina skipping this race. “We spend two years in the junior age category, and on the second year, even though I still competed at 10km, I did the work for 20km, so the transition from the junior age category went rather smoothly,” Lashmanova revealed.
At the World Race Walking Cup, that was held in Lashmanova’s hometown, she had no other option except being the first (or at least the second behind Kaniskina) to fulfill her Olympic dream. Kaniskina was already on the team as a World Champion, but all the other Russian “big names” were on the start line eager to fight for the win that would most likely guarantee them a team berth. Lashmanova decided to go alongside her mate and role model Kaniskina all the way. They didn’t even have to lead, as Kumi Otosha from Japan and Claire Talent from Australia did that job for more than half of the race before respectively fading and being disqualified. The heat was starting to take a toll on all the athletes, but Lashmanova was just flying. At the seventeenth kilometer she gesticulated offering Kaniskina the lead, but realised that the titled rival was exhausted. Lashmanova made a spurt and won the race in 1:27.38. “It was an unbelievable win. I didn’t expect that other girls from our group wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace. And it’s twice more exciting to win at home, with this huge crowd, with your parents and friends along the course. Even though I didn’t see anyone during the race, as I was looking only straight ahead,” Lashmanova said.
Lashmanova is a biology student of the Mordovian State University with the major in biochemistry. “This science is about how our body works. It’s really connected with sports, as it helps understand what microelements, vitamins the body needs and why. My studies really help me in my training. But, unfortunately, I can’t attend all the classes. I have an individual schedule. In autumn, when our workload is lower, I try not to miss the University, but during the rest of the year I have to study a lot on my own and to pass the exams separately from my mates,” Lashmanova said.
Elena is also keen on music and embroidery. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much time for hobbies. After the morning session we need time to rest, in the evening we normally have physio. When there is a free evening, the first choice is to go home and see my parents, of course,” Lashmanova said.
Few days before the Olympics Lashmanova doesn’t want to make any plans, saying that she’s still 100% focused on her training, but she admits that going to London is already a dream come true. And she will definitely get the most out of it. It can’t be the other way as this girl doesn’t have any fears or any pressure on her, and she heads for the Games in a great company of training partners and role models Olga Kaniskina and Anisya Kirdyapkina.
5,000m RW: 21:29.30 (2009)
10,000m RW: 42:59.48 WJR (2011)
10km RW: 43:10 (2011)
20km RW: 1:26:30 (2012)
5,000m RW/10,000m RW/10km RW/20km RW: 2009:21:29.30/-/-/-; 2010: 20:44.37i/44:11.90/45.32/-; 2011: -/42:59.48 WJR/43:10/-; 2012: -/-/-/1:26:30
2009 1st World Youth Championships (Bressanone) (5,000m RW) 22:55.45
2010 1st World Junior Championships (Moncton) (10,000m RW) 44:11.90
2011 1st European Cup Race Walking (Olhão) (10 km RW) 43:10
2011 1st European Junior Championships (Tallinn) (10,000m RW) 42:59.48
2012 1st World Race Walking Cup (Saransk) (20 km RW) 1:27:38
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2012