Updated 27 July 2008
Ryta TURAVA, Belarus (20km Walk)
Born: 28 December, 1980; Dubrovno, Vitebsk district.
Height: 1.79; Weight: 62.00kg
Coach: Stanislav Shapechko
In school, Ryta Turava tried many sports. She played in the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and won a city championship. But she was best at cross country running. One day, when she was out training for running, coaches Jury and Olga Maksak saw her and invited to the sports school, where her senior sister, Alesya, was already engaged.
“If somebody had told me the hard work waiting for me, I’m not sure that I would have chosen athletics,” Turava smiled. “But, after a short time at the sports school, I took on regional competitions and showed good results. My opponents were much older and I was very happy.”
At the beginning of her career as a walker, Turava participated in both running and walking competitions. Her switch to walking came by chance as a girl she trained with decided to walk. Turava ask the trainer if she could learn it too and she was taught the elementary techniques of movement, the skills necessary to walk in a straight line. Other subtleties of sports walking she learned by herself.
Turava was inspired by the victory of the Russian, Irina Stankina, who, at 18 years 135 days, became the youngest ever world champion, in the 10km Walk in Göteborg in 1995. Turava’s results began to improve after she started training with men. At a tournament in Germany, which Turava won with a very good time, her trainer joked with her: “It is unbelievable, you probably missed a lap.”
Turava asked coach Jury Maksak: “What time needs to be shown to achieve the requirements for the assignment of a rank of a candidate for the Master of sports of international class?” This rank is given for those athletes who record a world class time. The answer was: “It takes about five years to get this time.” But it took Turava only one year to get this rank.
At 18 years she joined the Republican school of Olympic reserves in Minsk. And in this year (1998) Turava participated in the World Junior Championships in Annecy, France, and was 6th in the 5km track race. The following year, at the European Junior Championship, in Riga, Latvia, she finished third. And, at the 2001 European U23 Championships, in Amsterdam, she took the silver medal.
“Then I wanted to make a break and switch to running,” Turava said, explaining her absence from walking competitions. “I’d said goodbye to the trainer and told him that I’ll never be back walking. I was bothered with the wearisome routine training. I like only training from which I receive pleasure and when I win competitions. Walking is an unfair kind of sport because a lot depends on the judges’ opinion. But there are a lot of casual people around. They move on curved legs, run when nobody sees it. To me such a neighbourhood was not desirable.”
After returning to running, Turava realised that she was not best suited to it. Her sister, Alesya, insisted that Ryta switch back to walking and Ivan Trotskiy, a member of the national walking team, Ryta's hostel neighbour at that time, considered her an athlete with good qualities of the walker.
So she returned to walking, finishing fourth in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. At the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki, she was second, winning the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in the same year. In 2006 she became European champion in Göteborg and took first place in the World Race Walking Cup in La Coruña. In the IAAF Race Walking Challenge she placed second.
In 2007 Turava won the European Cup, in Royal Leamington Spa, England, and for a second time, won the IAAF Race Walking Challenge. In a present season she planned only two starts – the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary and the Olympic Games in Beijing.
But in Cheboksary, Turava’s performance was not successful: after 10 km she had to abandon. She was lacking competitive practice and also she hadn’t collected enough training volume on the eve of the season.
To prove the right to compete in the Olympic Games in Beijing, she participated in the «Na Rynek marsz z TNT» Race Walking Grand Prix in Krakow, Poland, and gave her best, beating all the field. She walked 20 km in 1:28:33 and outstripped Susana Feitor, of Portugal, who was second by well over two minutes and Romanian Claudia Stef who was third.
Rita did not compete anywhere else, having concentrated on preparation for Olympic Games in Beijing where she hopes to climb on the podium.
10km Walk - 42:27 (2005)
20km Walk - 1:26:11 (2006)
20km Walk: 2001 - 1:30:15; 2004 - 1:29:06; 2005 - 1:27:05; 2006 - 1:26:11; 2007 - 1:27:10; 2008 - 1:28:33.
1998 6th World Junior Championships
1999 3rd European Junior Championships
2001 2nd European U23 Championships
2004 4th Olympic Games
2005 1st IAAF Race Walking Challenge
2005 2nd World Championships
2006 1st European Championships
2006 2nd IAAF Walking Challenge
2006 1st World Race Walking Cup
2007 1st EAA Race Walking Cup
2007 1st IAAF Walking Challenge
2008 1st Race Walking Grand Prix
Prepared by Mikhail Dubitski for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.