Updated 18 July 2012
Tatyana CHERNOVA, Russia
Born: 29 January 1988, Krasnodar
Coaches: Sergey Chernov (father), Vladimir Kudryavtsev
Coming from a sporting family, Tatyana Chernova was born to be an athlete. Her mother, Lyudmila Chernova, was a member of the Soviet Union’s victorious 1980 4x400m squad in Moscow and her father is the well-known Soviet decathlete, Sergey Chernov. Tatyana was born eight years after her mother’s Olympic triumph but still experienced the sports way of life from babyhood.
“My parents were coaching and, as soon as it became possible, I started going to the training camps with them,” Tatyana recalled. “Athletes played with me in their free time and I enjoyed these trips a lot.”
Quite naturally, soon she was going to training camps not only to have fun but also to work. “I was bored staying alone when everybody had gone training,” she said. “So, at first I joined my parents and their athletes at the stadium, just to play around, and then steadily I started training more and more seriously.”
Heptathlon is the natural start to athletics for most young people in Russia. Chernova was one of the few to stay in it longer. “I just liked doing all seven disciplines, even running 800 metres, which is the last and the hardest one. I could not pick out one because I was good at most of them. And, after all, it was more realistic for me to achieve high results in Heptathlon than anywhere else.”
Success came quickly to Chernova. At 17, she first won the Heptathon at the 2005 World Youth Championships in Marrakech. This was not a surprise, as some weeks beforehand she had set the new World U17 best (5991) at the Russian Youth Championships. “I beat the score of Carolina Klüft and this was indeed something special for me,” Chernova said. “Klüft is the legend of our sport. I could not believe how I managed to surpass her.”
In 2006 Chernova took another global crown, this time at the World Junior Championships, in Beijing. “Did I feel any difference running higher hurdles and competing with older girls?” she asked. “No, I had been getting ready for it for long and my father did not give me a chance to relax. I was 100 per cent ready and managed to realise my potential.”
However, Chernova’s father, Sergey, was no longer her only coach. For several years she has been working also with Vladimir Kudryavtsev, the coach of the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist long jumper, Tatyana Kotova.
“It was my father’s decision to give me away to Kudryavtsev,” Chernova said. “I am really very happy about it and not only because Kotova is one of my best friends. With my father I could let myself do things I would never do with just a coach. With a father you can play on his nerves, or make him feel sorry for you and release you from training. With a coach you just work and know that you must be professional.”
The 2007 season was the first adult professional season for Chernova. With the World Junior title and World season’s best in Arles (6768) – though wind assisted – Chernova was released from the trials and automatically included in the squad for the World Championships in Osaka. The score of 6768 is higher than the World Junior record held by Klüft (6542). Only excessive wind prevented Chernova from becoming the new World record holder. “My goal for the World Championships is to set this record and hopefully beat Klüft,” Chernova said at the time.
In Osaka, Chernova’s hopes were crushed. One of the hot favourites before the start, she finished only 17th after the first day and withdrew from the second. “The only reason was the thigh injury,” Chernova explained. “I could not run or jump normally. I was extremely disappointed after Osaka, as all my hopes and expectations turned to nothing. And later it took me several months to recover from the injury and get back to training.”
Chernova did not prepare especially for the 2008 winter season, using it only as preparation for the summer. “I was deep in training and did not concentrate on showing high results in winter,” she said. “I am better in Heptathlon than in Pentathlon.” She scored 4717 points in February to finish third behind the Ukrainians, Lyudmila Blonska and Nataliya Dobrynska, in Tallinn before unexpectedly appearing in the World Indoor Championships, in Valencia.
It was again Klüft who interfered with Chernova’s sports destiny. The famed Swede declined to compete in Valencia and Chernova was first on the waiting list to qualify. But in Valencia Chernova was only seventh.
“I really understand why Carolina has made a decision to leave Heptathlon for jumps, Chernova said. “I think, in her shoes, I would do the same. It’s hard to find motivation when everything has been already achieved. I am also good in jumps but I have no thought of leaving Heptathlon. I still have so many things to fight for here.”
The next thing to fight for on the agenda was an Olympic medal. Chernova brilliantly opened the 2008 Olympic season with a win in Götzis with the new official PB of 6618. Leaving behind the World leader, Blonska, Chernova fulfilled the qualification criteria and earned the spot in the Russian team for the Olympics.
With her bright appearance and famous parents Chernova used to take part in several TV shows and photo sessions in Russia. However, she completely stopped this in the Olympic season. “I enjoy photo sessions and like to see my face in the press. But this can wait. In Beijing it will be my first Olympics. I don’t want to let down expectations any more. Osaka was enough.”
Chernova’s best event in Heptathlon used to be the Javelin. In 2008, in Götzis, she also set a solid PB in the Long Jump (6.78). Her weakest event, the Shot Put, is something she is working on to improve. “It’s a bit strange that I am good in the Javelin Throw and bad in Shot Put, which are, in a way, similar events. Probably this is because I was training much in Javelin in my childhood. Before, I was just too young and too light for the Shot Put, but now I feel I am getting stronger and will do better with this event. What’s most important, I have come to like it!”
Heptathlon is not an event in which the competitors earn big money. “Sometimes I am a bit envious of the athletes who have competitions every week and not several times a season as we do,” Chernova admitted. “But Heptathlon is so hard that you just can’t go out to compete more often. I don’t feel deprived because we in Heptathlon have a special atmosphere that none of the other athletics events has.
“As we compete for two days together we really feel like a brotherhood. All the congratulations and hugs in the end are not for show. It is our true feeling. For me it’s not a problem, for example, to give advice to my competitor if I see that she needs it. In sports you need to be a bit aggressive, but I always remember that we all are doing the same job and need to support each other.
“Do I now feel as the leader of the Russian team?” she asked when interviewed before the Olympic Games. “No, we have so many strong girls who are older and more experienced than I am. In Beijing I want to improve my PB. I would be satisfied with this, no matter what place I take.” Such was the change in Chernova’s expectations for herself after the crushing of her ambitious hopes in Osaka.
In Beijing, Chernova showed something she could not do before – she fought in every event, for every second and centimeter, fought in exhausting heat and struggling with the injury. After the first day Chernova was only 10th, after disappointing in the Shot Put and 200m losing 311 points to the leader – American Hyleas Fountain – (3749 against 4060). Still Tatyana did not lose her optimism.
“The day before the start it was raining, but when we had to go out to compete the sun was shining, and this cheered me up a lot,” Chernova smiled. “Generally I did all right on the first day. I was especially glad with my High Jump – I jumped 1.83m, that is 10cm better than my previous SB from Götzis! That was a huge surprise. In fact I had a slight knee injury and almost could not train the High Jump at all.”
The second day at the Olympics was again full of surprises for Chernova. Only 48.37m in her favorite Javelin Throw and a 6.47m leap in the Long Jump – another theoretically strong event. It meant only the fourth place after 6 events – and 158 points down to Hyleas Fountain who was third. 158 points – this is worth 10 seconds at the last 800m.
Chernova doubts she will ever again make herself run 800 m like this. Like this can run only a person who has nothing to lose. She made a huge gap, ran her PB with an impressive 2:06.50 but still missed winning the bronze by one second.
After the finish Chernova could hardly stand. “Was I thinking if I could get a medal?” she asked. “No, for sure not. I just did not have a single thought in my head. For several minutes after the finish I was lying on a track and trying to get my breath back. Then two other Russian girls helped me to get back on my feet and said: “No, you did not make it. The American ran too fast.”
“I realised that it was not even theoretically possible to run 800m faster than 2:05,” Chernova explained. “My only hope was that I would be fast and the American would run too slowly. I sped up from the very start, and what I felt then I think I will remember all my life. Open my eyes – and see only the track ahead, endless track; every lap – look at the time, count, and again track, track, track… On the last meters I could hardly feel my legs. After the finish I did not even look at the time. I fell down to the ground and was praying.”
Some days later, IAAF President Lamine Diack announced the positive doping sample of the silver medalist, Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska. Blonska was disqualified, Chernova got her bronze medal. May be someone still heard her prayers.
Chernova took it easy the following season 2009, finishing only eighth at the World Championships. But even here she managed to be a part of history: Tatyana was one of the closest spectators of an amazing 9.58 World record of Usain Bolt.
“Usain was running right after we finished our 800m run, so I watched him from the in-field,” Chernova said. “Bolt is an amazing athlete. I admire not only his sports talent, but also how artistic he is, how he can make a show out of his every public appearance. We all have something to learn from him and think not only about our performance but also about the show.”
The Doha 2010 World Indoors was for Chernova like déjà vu of the Olympics. Again, before the last event, 800m, she was losing about 100 points to the third placer – and again it was the American Hyleas Fountain. This time Tatyana did not leave it to good luck in the face of anti-doping authorities. She managed to run fast enough and close the gap and take the bronze.
“I really hoped before the last event that the American would be too far and I would not have to run a fast 800m,” Chernova admitted. “But when I looked in the results sheet and saw it was only 99 points I thought: “No, Tanya, you will have to work again.” Of course I remembered the Olympic final. It’s hard to compare, Olympics are too different from the World Indoors, but in both cases I gave on the distance all the power I had. I had nothing to regret about. And this time I finally got my medal on the podium, and not afterwards in a box…”
After the bronze from Doha, Chernova had a consistent summer, being second in Götzis and fourth at the European Championships in Barcelona (both with results over 5000 point). A victory in Talence at the end of the season secured her first place in the IAAF Heptathlon World Challenge.
Her real break through came in 2011, when she won the meeting in Kladno with a massive PB of 6773 points. She set her new PB on the 100m hurdles (13.32), and overall improved her previous official record by 155 points.
She came to the World Championships in Daegu as a hot favorite for silver. But who could predict that the Russian would be able to beat the World leader Jessica Ennis.
“I have been dreaming about it whole my life, but I never expected that it would be so easy to become the World champion,” Chernova admitted after the victory ceremony. She won in Daegu being 23 – quite young, but already very experienced.
In South Korea, Chernova was perfect in every event. She started from the repetition of her Kladno PB in the high hurdles (13.32), and later set more PBs in 200 m (23.50, equaled) and in shot put (14.17 m). Chernova finished the first day second – and this was already a sign – the second, her strongest day could possibly bring Tatyana the gold medal.
“Surprisingly I did not even feel nervous,” Chernova said. “I slept well at night and started the second day fully concentrated. I was doing every event like in training.”
Traditionally good long jump (6.61 m) and javelin throw (52.95 m) events made Chernova the leader before the final 800 m. Ennis had a weak javelin (only 39.95 m), that left her only with theoretic chances to catch Chernova.
This was how another Tatyana’s dream came true – to have an easy 800m race in the final.
After her gold finish in Daegu, with a PB of 6880 points, Chernova rushed to the stands. Her best friend, discus thrower Darya Pischalnikova there was already crying. While Tatyana still did not realise what it meant – to beat Ennis ahead of the Olympics in London.
“It will be very hard for Jessica to compete on the home soil,” Chernova says. “But I try not to think now how it will be in London. I decided to compete indoors to stay in shape, as usual I am doing separate events in smaller competitions, and I feel great now. I do not have any specific goals in Istanbul. Just want to get the fruit from all the hard work I have done in winter. I allowed myself after Daegu only a short vacation and a trip to the IAF Gala in Monaco, and afterwards started training again, as if I had never been the World champion…”
In Istanbul Chernova stopped right near the podium, being fifth with the same number of points as the fourth. She could have been third but for the slight mistake in the long jump. In her second attempt she missed the take-off board by less than a cm and had to qualify with only 6.25m. But Chernova was not even disappointment.
“I congratulate my good friend Natalya Dobrynska with the World record, it is incredible,” Chernova said back in Istanbul. “And I am quite satisfied with my performance. I was concentrating mainly on high hurldes and high jump – the events I would like to improve in summer. And I realised it would be very hard to medal as pentathlon is not my strong event. Outdoors everything will be different.”
It was really a different Chernova who in May, in Götzis set her 200m PB 23.49 and finished second after Jessica Ennis, who set her new PB. “I am not shocked. I still know my weak points and know how to catch Ennis,” Tatyana assured. “It was only the start of the season, I did not peak my shape. And Jessica always shines at her first competitions. May be we just have different training methods.”
Being the main rival of the home star, Chernova got much public attention in Great Britain. She was interviewed by The Times in Moscow, and took part in several photo shoots for foreign media. Just one of 9 current World Champions in Russia, abroad she seems to be much more popular than at home.
“All my nice dresses will wait till the time after the Olympics,” Chernova makes a hint that she counts on her Olympic celebration.
Heptathlon 6880 (2011)
Pentathlon 4855i (2010)
200m 23.49 (2012)
800m 2:06.50 (2008)
100m Hurdles 13.32 (2011)
High Jump 1.87 (2007)
Long Jump 6.82 (2011)
Shot Put 14.17 (2011)
Javelin 54.49 (2006)
Heptathlon. 2005: 5991; 2006: 6227; 2007: 6768 (wind assisted); 2008: 6618; 2009: 6386; 2010: 6572; 2011: 6880; 2012: 6774
Pentathlon. 2008: 4717i; 2010: 4855i; 2012: 4725i
2005 1st (Heptathlon) World Youth Championships (Marrakech) 5875
2006 1st (Heptathlon) World Junior Championships (Beijing) 6227
2007 1st (Heptathlon Meeting International d’Arles (Arles) 6768
2007 DNF (Heptathlon) World Championships (Osaka) DNF
2008 7th (Pentathlon) World Indoor Championships (Valencia) 4543
2008 1st (Heptathlon) HYPO-Mehrkampfmeeting (Götzis) 6618
2008 3rd (Heptathlon) Olympic Games (Beijing) 6591
2009 7th (Heptathlon) HYPO-Mehrkampfmeeting (Götzis) 6243
2009 2nd (Heptathlon) Erdgas-Mehrkampfmeeting (Ratingen) 6386
2009 8th (Heptathlon) World Championships (Berlin) 6288
2009 3rd (Heptathlon) Decastar (Talence) 6306
2010 1st (Pentathlon) Russian Indoor Championships (Penza) 4855
2010 3rd (Pentathlon) World Indoor Championships (Doha) 4762
2010 2nd (Heptathlon) HYPO-Mehrkampfmeeting (Götzis) 6572
2010 4th (Heptathlon) European Championships (Barcelona) 6512
2011 1st (Heptathlon) Decastar (Talence) 6453
2011 2nd (Heptathlon) HYPO-Mehrkampfmeeting (Götzis) 6539
2011 1st (Heptathlon) Decathlon World Class (Kladno) 6773
2011 1st (Heptathlon) World Championships (Daegu) 6880
2012 4th (Pentathlon) World Championships (Istambul) 4725
2012 2nd (Heptathlon) HYPO-Mehrkampfmeeting (Götzis) 6774
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2012.