Updated 30 July 2011
Olga ZAYTSEVA, Russia (Long Jump)
Born: 10 November 1984, in Kaliningrad, lives in St Petersburg
Coach: Evgeny Ter-Avanesov
Try to ask any Russian sports fan, “Who is Olga Zaytseva?” and in 10 answers out of ten you will hear, “The famous biathlete, twice Olympic champion.” A complete namesake of the current leader of the national biathlon team, the athlete Olga Zaytseva is far less known, despite being the bronze medallist at the 2006 European Championships at 400m and the reigning Russian champion in the long jump with an amazing leap of 7.01m.
“I sometimes watch biathlon and of course cheer for Olga Zaytseva,” smiles Olga (the athlete). Her athletics career started in St Petersburg quite ordinarily.
“My parents were not involved in professional sports. They took me to the stadium just because they wanted me to grow up healthy. And then, step by step, I started to like athletics so much that could not imagine my life without it.”
Zaytseva’s first big win came fast – already in 2005, at the age of 21, she became the European U23 champion at 400m. A year later, competing with the seniors, she first helped the Russian 4x400m relay set the World indoor record in Glasgow in January (3:23.37), then sensationally took the individual bronze and team gold at the European Championships in Göteborg. Her 2006 season’s best on 400m – 49.49 – still stands as her career best as well…
“Maybe it’s the irony of fate, but my good results disappeared almost as fast as they came,” Zaytseva smiles sadly. “Since 2006, I was almost never injury free. I had a specific kind of injury, which I don’t want to name in public, but the thing is that I felt pain only running 400m. Short sprints or jumps felt ok, but my favourite, my best discipline was no longer possible for me…”
For four years, from 2007 till 2010, Zaytseva was struggling to stay at the top level. She actually succeeded only in 2009, when she was third at the national trials on 200m and qualified for the World Championships in Berlin. But even there, finishing sixth in the semi-finals and not qualifying for the final, Zaytseva was too far from her best shape. For one year, in 2006, she was a star and now became just one of the crowd…
“I perfectly realised that it could not go on like that,” Zaytseva confirms. “I tried 100m, 200m, but everywhere without big success. So the only possible way out for me was the long jump!”
Zaytseva had combined long jump with sprints at the start of her career, and even had a career best 6.37m from 2003. But this seemed nothing compared to other athletes of her age, who already had plenty of experience in the discipline.
“For two years I was trying to find a coach in long jump. Everybody said: “Are you crazy, you are too old to start everything from the very beginning!” Olga recalls.
Zaytseva’s search ended in the spring of 2011, when a well-known Moscow specialist, Evgeny Ter-Avanesov (one of the athletes from his group is a World championhips-2009 bronze medallist in the triple jump Anna Pyatykh), finally accepted her offer.
“I called Evgeny Mikhaylovich and just said: “Do you want to coach me?” He was very much surprised, asked the results of my sprints and jumping tests, and then said that he needed a couple of days to think it over. When he finally told me on the phone that I could come to Moscow, I was the happiest person on the planet,” Zaytseva laughs.
The perspective of leaving her native town for long did not make Olga afraid. She still lives in St Petersburg, although she comes there only in the short pauses between training camps.
“Training in jumps is so much more interesting than in sprints,” Zaytseva believes. “I remembered it even from childhood, when I was combining the long jump with 400m. In sprints you just always run. In jumps there are lots of technical exercises and specific work on different groups of muscles. Psychologically it is much easier to cope with: now I maybe train even more than before, but because of the fact that every training differs from the previous one, I never get bored.”
The fresh long jumper Zaytseva impressed already at the Moscow Championships this summer when she leaped to a 6.71m personal best. Two weeks before the national trials this sounded solid – but still too far from the leaders. The national number one, Darya Klishina, had jumped a 7.05m PB at the European U23 Championships in Ostrava!
Even with Klishina released from the trials, Zaytseva still faced strong competition in Cheboksary. Tatyana Kotova, Lyudmila Kolchanova, Olga Kucherenko – they all, unlike Zaytseva, had the experience of competing at the World Championships and at the trials specifically in long jump. Zaytseva’s win in such company was already a big sensation – but how unexpected it was that already in her first major competition Zaytseva leaped over 7 metres!
“When I heard the result from the judges I could not believe my ears,” Zaytseva says. “I came to the runway for the first time only in May. And jumping 7 metres just two months later sounds like a fairy tale!”
If it is really a fairy tale, we will see in Daegu. Zaytseva has never won a World Championships medal, and now, ranked N. 3 in the world, comes to South Korea as one of the favourites.
“People ask me about medals, and I don’t even know the procedure,” Olga smiles. “In sprints everything is easy – first you have to qualify from the heat, than the semi-final and the final. In long jump there is qualification, and to be honest I have no idea how to jump in this qualification so as not to waste energy. I am a complete newcomer, there is no pressure, and I feel so excited about it!”
100m: 11.65 (2008)
200m: 22.67 (2006)
400m: 49.49 (2006)
Long Jump: 7.01m (2011)
100/200/400/Long jump: 2003: -/-/-/6.37; 2004: -/-/51.09/-; 2005: -/23.04/50.06/-; 2006: -/22.67/49.49/-; 2007: -/24.23i/52.93i/-; 2008: 11.65/23.33/51.42i/-; 2009: 11.67/22.82/-/-; 2011: -/-/-/7.01.
2005 1st (400m) Russian U23 Championships (Tula) 50.06
2005 1st (400m) European U23 Championships (Erfurt) 50.72
2005 1st (4x400m) European U23 Championships (Erfurt) 3:27.27
2006 1st (200m) Russian Championships (Tula) 22.67
2006 1st (200m) European Cup (Malaga) 22.73
2006 1st (4x400m) European Cup (Malaga) 3:23.51
2006 3rd (400m) European Championships (Göteborg) 50.28
2006 1st (4x400m) European Championships (Göteborg) 3:25.12
2009 4th (200m) Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 23.50
2009 3rd (200m) Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 22.82
2009 6th sf (200m) World Championships (Berlin) 23.19
2011 1st (Long Jump) Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 7.01
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2011.