Updated 5 August 2008
Tatyana ANDRIANOVA, Russia (800m)
Born: 10 December 1979, Yaroslavl
Coach: Svetlana Pleskach-Styrkina
There are not many athletes who started their career in acrobatics but Tatyana Andrianova is one. From the ages of 7 to 12, she was a promising gymnast, until she broke her arm at 12. “I recovered but I started to be afraid,” she said. “With this fear I could not make these difficult exercises anymore.”
By chance she switched to athletics. A coach spotted her at a schools competition and invited her to try it. “I was quite different from other girls of my age because, after acrobatics, I was in perfect physical shape,” she said. “Even now this physical base helps me a lot.”
Andrianova started running at 400 and 800m. “I could never understand how to run sprints,” she laughs. “You have just come out from the start – and that’s all, the distance is finished. I always need first to think it over, to pull myself together, concentrate. I want to be able to change tactics at the distance, to look at the competitors, and so on. I’ve chosen middle distance running very quickly.”
However, within no time, Andrianova had to pick between 400 and 800m. The two distances were held almost at the same time at the Russian Junior Championships. Andrianova chose the 800m as the longest one.
In juniors Andrianova was not that successful, only once qualifying for the World Junior Championships, in 1996. However, that trip did not materialise due to political reasons. “That year there were both the Olympic Games, in Atlanta, and the Presidential elections of Boris Yeltsin,” she said. “I was told that the country was short of money so they decided to save some on different junior championships. They sent to the World Championships only the winner. I was third and had to stay at home.”
At 18, Andrianova had to change coach. Her first coach, Sergey Tiulenev, gave her away, saying: “I know how to work with kids but not with senior athletes as you are.” She continued training with another coach from Yaroslavl, Lev Luzin. However, this union did not prove to be successful. “We did not understand each other,” she said. “After two years with no results I decided to give up”.
For some months, studies held in Andrianova’s life the place that used to belong to athletics. She declined to follow the easiest way and get education in sports. She entered the college of trade and economics in Yaroslavl and concentrated on books and lectures. “I probably would be a manager now but for the director of my former sports school,” she said. “Once he went to Moscow to a coaches’ seminar. When he came home he immediately gave me a call and said: “Stop this! You are talented but you will never reach anything in Yaroslavl. Our coaches can work with kids but not on the senior level. Come to Moscow. I made a deal with one of the best coaches – Svetlana Pleskach-Styrkina. She has agreed to take a look at you”.
A former international athlete, Pleskach-Styrkina became famous after her work with the double Olympic champion in 800 and 1500m, Svetlana Masterkova. Since then she has nursed generations of strong middle distance runners, including Natalya Gorelova, Oxana Zbrozhek and Svetlana Klyuka.
“My main condition was that I would not work with a male coach,” Andrianova explains. “I don’t know why but I do not feel comfortable working with men. We are always arguing and have no understanding!”
Andrianova was invited to train with Styrkina’s group at one camp, so the coach would get an impression of her potential. She went to Moscow at 20 with the PB of 2:04, and after several months out of training. “Styrkina did not believe I could ever have run 2:04. She said 2:14 maximum! I seemed so weak and untrained to her. At the end of the camp she said: ‘Forget about being an athlete. Get married and give birth to children – this would be much better for you!” Andrianova smiles at the memory.
This rejection became a strong motivation for Andrianova to prove Styrkina wrong. During the next year she trained on her own, thanks to financial support from the Yaroslavl government. She tried to follow Styrkina’s group and hold her training camps at the same places but Svetlana still paid no attention to her. In a year Andrianova’s result of 2:05 was completely self-made. Styrkina paid attention. “I joined the group but still was not on the leading positions there,” Adrianova said.
Everything changed in the indoor season 2004. Andrianova finished first at the National Trials and sensationally qualified for the World Indoor Championships in Budapest. “It was really funny,” Andrianova laughs. “Before Budapest I even did not have a manager and had never competed at any international event. Some weeks before the championships my coach found me a manager - Pavel Voronkov - and he organised my first competition abroad, in Athens. Before Athens I even had never tried running with a pacemaker.”
In Budapest, Andrianova twice improved her PB and finished 5th in 1:59.71. “I went out on the track with my eyes wide open and just showed everything I could,” she said. “I was not nervous because I did not realise what was happening.”
The outdoor season, with victory at the National Trials and 5th place in the main event (the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens) was a replica of the indoors, both in terms of results and emotions. “In Athens I again just did not realise where I was,” Tatyana explains.
“Do you know the only difference I noticed between the Olympic Games and other competitions? That, at the Olympics, you have more call rooms and have to wait for the start two hours after warm-up instead of one hour as usual. That’s all, nothing more! Only on the next day, after my final, when I went to the stadium to support my future husband, Dmitry Bogdanov, did I realise how huge the stadium was, noticed the crowded stands, the special atmosphere. When running myself I was fully concentrated on the track and even did not look around”.
The 5th place at the Olympics at last made Andrianova one of the favourites of international middle distance running and the leader of her training group. In the outdoor season of 2005, she again won the National Trials with a PB 1:56.07. This time she was going to her first outdoor World Championships not as an underdog. That’s why her first and only big prize – the bronze medal from Helsinki-2005 - was regarded as a defeat back then.
“I was so upset with that bronze,” Andrianova says. “I was already planning to get married and give birth to my child, and I was not sure I would be back on the track again. I was thinking probably it was my last World Championships. That’s why, when the things went wrong from the very beginning, it made me so nervous”.
On the day of the women’s 800m in Helsinki it rained heavily. The competitions were stopped. Finally, after a three-hour delay, the athletes were called to the start. “It was awful,” Andrianova recalled. “Three hours wandering around, not knowing whether you would compete that day or not. As far as I remember, that day we were the only running event that took place in spite of the rain. I remember we were sitting in the call room and watching each other. Probably sometimes playing this game of who first puts her eyes down. But I just was deep inside myself, fully concentrated, I even did not pay attention to anybody.”
The World Championships medal was about to become Andrianova’s farewell in athletics. In March 2006 she married Bogdanov (an international 800m runner) and in autumn gave birth to their son, Nikita. “First I was not planning to come back to athletics,” Andrianova says. “But, after the pregnancy, I felt my body so weak, I wanted to gain shape. Step by step I started training, and soon realised athletics was my favourite job and I didn’t want to quit it.”
The comeback did not go smoothly. Andrianova did not gain weight and in these terms everything was ok. But she obviously lacked training volumes and could not get back to her speed. “I remember one of my first competitions last year in Yaroslavl,” Tatyana says. “I ran 2:13 and finished the last. It was a disaster. I think I was not that upset even after the bronze at the World Championships. I was ashamed to run like that!”
During the whole 2007 season Andrianova was competing at local competitions with no noticeable results. Indoors she was 5th at the National Trials and did not qualify for the World Indoor Championships. This did not surprise anyone – Tatyana again went down to the category of underdog.
Andrianova started the 2008 outdoor season as a pace maker for the Kenyan wonder girl Pamela Jelimo at the first Golden League meeting in Berlin. “Sad to see the World Championships medallist pacing the girl almost 10 years younger,” was the thought that occurred to her. However, after the finish Andrianova reassessed: “I am not going to make money like that. This was my both first and last time as a pacemaker. I just wanted again to be on the track with the world’s strongest athletes, and as I did not have the results to get an invitation, being a pacemaker was my only chance. It really hurt me when I had to stop and watch other girls’ finish.”
As promised, since Berlin Andrianvoa has started competing by herself. The results were much better than last year but still far from optimal. 1:59.54 shown in early June in Kalamata remained Andrianova’s season’s best until the Russian championships in Kazan. “Truly I was panicking,” Tatyana smiles. “I was making noises to my coach saying she was doing something wrong and I would never run fast again. But Svetlana repeated to me all the way: ‘Wait a little bit. Now you are competing under solid training volumes, that’s why you cannot run fast. As soon as you have this base, you will show your result’. Even up to now I am not sure if my coach really knew everything would be like that, or she was repeating these words just to calm me down”.
At the National Trials in Kazan Andrianova made her real comeback. She finished second behind Yelena Soboleva with a PB 1:56.00. Only Soboleva and Jelimo have run faster this year. “Really I was risking at the National Trials,” Tatyana admits. “For the first time in my career I am peaking my shape not for the national trials but for the main competition – the Olympic Games. I believe my best results are still ahead”.
After the provisional suspension of Soboleva, Andrianova became number two in the world . This, however, did not make her happy. “I regard everything that happened with Soboleva and other girls as a human tragedy,” she said. “I want to win in a fair fight on the track, but not when my competitor is not allowed to compete at all. I cannot celebrate this, and I feel really sorry for Yelena. I wish we could compete at the Olympics together”.
To the Olympics 2008 in Beijing Andrianova is going together with her husband. Who is coaching who in the family? “Oh, we can give so much advice to each other, but it’s useless. We both don’t listen, make only what we consider right to do. Probably that is the secret why we are already more than five years together!”
2001: 2:05.85; 2003: 2:00.96; 2004: 1:56.23; 2005: 1:56.07; 2008: 1:56.00
2004 1st Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 2:01.60
2004 5th World Indoor Championships (Budapest) 1:59.71
2004 2nd European Champions Cup (Moscow) 1:59.64
2004 1st Russian Championships (Tula) 1:56.23
2004 5th Olympic Games (Athens) 1:56.88
2004 7th World Athletics Final (Monaco) 2:03.70
2005 1st Russian Championships (Tula) 1:56.07
2005 3rd World Championships (Helsinki) 1:59.60
2005 7th World Athletics Final (Monaco) 2:08.10
2008 5th Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 2:02.68
2008 2nd Russian Championships (Kazan) 1:56.00
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2008