Updated 22 February 2008
Olesya ZYKINA, Russia (400m)
Born: 7 O?tober 1980, Kaluga
Height: 1.76m; Weight: 60kg
Lives: Tula and Moscow
Coach: Matvey Telyatnikov (before October 2007 –Sergey Reutov & Natalia Kovtun)
Manager: Aivar Karotamm
Almost ten years have passed since the summer that Olesya Zykina underwent a baptism of fire for the Russia junior team. The ginger-haired sprinter lined up as the only white athlete in the final of the women’s 100m at the 1998 World Junior Championships in Annecy, France. Placing eighth and last, she observed in jest: “I was looking effective indeed against a background of my black-skinned rivals”.
Zykina clocked 11.88 to finish eighth and last, although, in the second round, she recorded her still unsurpassed personal best of 11.84. The next year she became the heroine of the European Junior Championships in Riga, Latvia, gaining two gold medals at her favourite distance. She won the 400m (52.00) and ran the final lap in 4x400m relay. From then until now Zykina has focused on those two events.
Strange as it may seem, the young Zykina never dreamed of being an athlete. Her parents are rather distant from sport: her mother is a governess in kindergarten and her father is a cook. And Olesya herself indulged in music until she was 14 years old, being earnest in playing the piano. But her school teacher had noticed her sporting talent and persuaded the young girl to run seriously.
After finishing music school, Zykina eventually joined the athletics section and almost instantly started to achieve a success in competition. Svetlana Masterkova, Russia’s 1996 Olympic 800/1500m champion, has always been her cult figure. Zykina admits that she would not have started to go in for sport had she not seen a TV show about Masterkova and her Olympic triumphs. She was inspired by Masterkova’s achievements and began to train hard.
(After helping Russia to win 4 x 400 in European Cup in Gateshead, England, in July) Zykina contested her first Olympic Games in 2000, in Sydney, but was hardly successful. She did not run her leg convincingly enough to be selected for the final, in which the Russian team finished third. However, she still received an Olympic bronze medal as a member of the team, so it was progress of a kind for the young runner.
The following winter Zykina proved that she had not just got lucky as she became a member of Russian team by right. In the 2001 World Indoor Championships, in Lisbon, she finished the third (51.71) behind Sandie Richards, from Jamaica, and fellow Russian Olga Kotlyarova. She also earned a gold medal as a member of relay team, this time running in the final.
In 2002 Zykina won the 400m (50.45) at the European Championships in Munich, denying Grit Breuer a successful defence of her title in front of her home crowd. Zykina also won a silver medal as a member of Russian relay quartet. That year she also gained two medals at the World Cup, Madrid – a silver in the 4x400m and bronze in the individual 400m (50.67).
In 2003, Zykina’s best results were connected with the 4x400m as, with her team-mates, she took gold at the World Indoor Championships, in Birmingham, and silver from the outdoor World Championships, in Paris. One of the most satisfying achievements was her silver medal in 4x400m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. “It’s much more difficult to take part in relay, for the success of your team rests on your shoulders and depends on you,” Zykina said. “But, once your team wins, the glory and joy are rather stronger”.
At the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Zykina finished only sixth, clocking 51.24 after a 50.73 semi-final run. And she practically missed 2006 season. “Sometimes it’s necessary to have a rest and to gain strength,” she said. “I had to stop and consider my state”.
The 2007 season went well for Zykina as she finished third in the European Indoor Championships 400m in Birmingham and climbed the second step of podium with her team-mates after the relay. But, to everybody’s surprise, she placed only seventh in the Russian Championships with the time 51.04 after a 50.81 semi-final.
Zykina did not compete at the World Championships, in Osaka, and afterwards she considered changing coach. It was a distressing process because she had spent many years with her coaches, Sergey Reutov and Natalia Kovtun, and was devoted to them. But she turned to Matvey Telyatnikov and, since autumn of 2007, they have worked together.
“I have no regrets,” Zykina said. “I’m just very glad to train with him”. And her results at the beginning of the 2008 season indicate that it was a clever and clear-sighted decision. Zykina started the new season not just by winning the Russian Indoor Championships but by clocking her new personal best (51.09).
“I was eager to win, but I had doubted whether I was in good condition to do it,” she said. “It’s always much more difficult to run in winter, because you have to run two laps instead of one and choose the right moment to come off the bend (from the steep turn). Also you have to take into consideration your rivals, who are also pressing towards the straight. But today I managed to do everything right. And what makes me even happier is that I showed the best result in my entire career.
“I hope that in Valencia (2008 World Indoor Championships) I will run even faster. I have a desire to achieve that. I feel new emotions inside myself and new power. I suppose it’s the beginning of new stage of my life. And it’s definitely the step forward”.
During this interview Zykina was always smiling. She is seldom sad because she is optimistic by nature.
100m – 11.84 (1998)
200m – 22.55 (2005)
300m – 36.70 (2001)
400m – 50.15 (2001)
60m – 7.47 (2004)
200m – 23.38 (2008)
300m – 36.69 (2004)
400m – 51.09 (2008)
1997 - 58.64; 1999 - 51.31; 2000 - 50.36; 2001 - 50.15; 2002 - 50.44; 2003 - 50.39; 2004 - 50.44; 2005 - 50.73; 2006 - 51.86; 2007 - 50.81; 2008 - 51.09i
1998 1 Russian U20 Championships 100m 11.92
3 Russian U20 Championships 200m 23.98
8 World Junior Championships 100m 11.88
2 World Junior Championships 4x400m
1999 1 Russian Indoor U20 Championships 400m 53.67
1 Russian U20 Championships 400m 51.31
1 European U20 Championships 400m 52.00
1 European U20 Championships 4x400m
2000 1 European Cup 4x400m
3 Olympic Games 4x400m heat
2001 3 World Indoor Championships 400m 51.71
1 World Indoor Championships 4x400m
1 Russian Championships 400m 50.15
6 World Championships 400m 50.93
3 World Championships 4x400m
2002 1 Russian Championships 400m 50.94
1 European Championships 400m 50.45
2 European Championships 4x400m
3 World Cup 400m 50.67
3 World Cup 4x400m
2003 3 Russian Indoor Championships 400m 51.23
1 World Indoor Championships 4x400m
2 Russian Championships 400m 50.39
6 World Championships 400m 50.59
2 World Championships 4x400m
2004 3 Russian Championships 400m 50.44
2 Olympic Games 4x400m
2005 3 Russian Championships 400m 50.85
6 World Championships 400m 51.24
1 World Championships 4x400m heat
3 European Indoor Championships 400m 51.69
2008 1 Russian Indoor Championships 400m 51.09
Prepared by Larisa Voloshina, Sergey Tikhonov & Marina Voloshina for IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.