Tatyana Lebedeva, the Athens Olympic champion at Long Jump and the World Indoor record holder in the Triple Jump (15.36m) brought home two silver medals from Beijing Olympic Games. She continued her season on a high with no fewer than six victories on the international circuit.
We met with her after the award ceremony at which all Russian gold, silver and bronze medallists from the Beijing Olympics were given prizes – a new BMW car. Tatyana was the first of all the athletes to receive the keys from her new black BMW X3 and made a short speech on behalf of all awarded athletes.
Another Achilles operation?
“I have now completed my series of competitions in Asia in September, and I shall miss the winter season,” she explained.
“I have got some slight problem with the other Achilles’ tendon (which was not operated on). I want to have it examined and decide regarding the surgery. I am planning to make the next year “milder,” although I have the Wild card for the Berlin World Championships and I will be preparing for it.
“I do not think that I should strive for proving anybody anything. Besides I have a lot of things to do in connection with my learning programme. I must switch to other things a bit.”
Recently Lebedeva entered the post-graduate course in the Volgograd Academy of Physical Culture and became a part time student in Moscow Diplomatic Academy, Faculty of International Relations.
“I shall learn for three years. I have got classes four times a week and must get used to this rhythm. If I get my Achilles’ cleaned, I will have enough time for learning and rehabilitation after the surgery, having one training session a day.”
A year ago, in October, Lebedeva had Achilles’ tendon surgery which improved her performance.
“After the surgery I forgot about the pain which had tortured me for two years. That is why when I got pain in the other Achilles’ recently, I was not scared. I will see the same doctor who operated on me a year ago in Finland: Ilku Tallikula. Sergey Bubka recommended him to me. He did surgery to him and Masterkova. My surgery was also successful. I only felt nauseated after general anesthetic.
“My friends said that I would see beautiful kaleidoscopes and white horses while asleep, but I do not remember anything like this. They said that it must have been “Finnish anesthetic” (laughing). Now I have got the experience, I know what to expect from the foot after the surgery, how long to stay away from training”
“After last year’s surgery the rehab went successfully, because I followed my doctor’s instructions. In a month I already walked and even started running, but stopped myself, because the doctor recommended starting running only a month and a half later. I started from 20 minutes cross running and after another month I started jumping. In January I did long jumps in spikes during a film shooting in Los Angeles for NIKE. In March I had already forgotten about the surgery and did full training volume preparing for the main start of the season.
When leaders burn like matches
“In the previous years, when I performed well before the main competition of the season, my confidence grew. When I came to the main event my intuition helped me feel my rivals and I was not afraid of them.
“This year it was different. Before the Olympics my results were not the best – I was fifth or sixth in the world lists. I was not among the leaders and this was new to me. I remember when I was a leader everybody gave me a medal in advance and this pressed on me. Such situation played a bad trick on Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne. I wondered if she would be able to bear the burden of the leadership. Everybody hand-in-hand pinned the Olympic medal on her but she came only fifth.
“The same happened with Naide Gomes of Portugal. She won all the competitions before and after the Olympics with good results. However in Beijing she did not even pass the qualification. Probably the psychological pressure was too strong.
“The opinion that the peak of their form passed, is nonsense. Everybody saw how Naide Gomes jumped beyond 7 metres, but stepped a bit beyond the take-off line. This tells us that the Olympic Games are a very special competition when leaders burn like matches and new stars emerge.”
“My main rivals in the long jump are Maurren Higa Maggi and Naide Gomes. I can’t consider my Russian team mates as rivals. They have got some good results in the season, but lack stability. In the triple jump it is Yargelis Savigne. I think that the Olympic Games will teach her a lesson. Also Mbango Etone from Cameroon. She is different from the rest by her ability to keep showing 14.30 and then come out when it matters and fly beyond 15 metres. She did it more than once, at the previous Olympics and at this one too. I should keep her in mind too.”
“I want to go to the Olympic Games in London, of course. After Sydney I was sure that I would go to Athens, and after Athens I was sure that I would perform in Beijing. Now I want very much to perform in London at a good level. I shall be glad for any medal. There is a very good example - Heike Dre?hsler from Germany, who was almost 36 when she won Olympic Gold in Sydney in 2000, and I shall strive at this.
“My Guru Sri Chinmoy was my strongest supporter. I wear a locket with his portrait in his memory. He created many centers around the world - in Germany, Switzerland, Italy - and his followers come to support me. They were in Rieti, Stuttgart, Lausanne, Moscow...
Leading role in National Federation
“Sri Chinmoy really wanted me to win Olympic gold in the triple jump. Maybe the belief in his help, the feeling that he was with me supported me. I wanted to fulfill my promise to him and to win.
“His philosophy of constant Self-Transcendence left a deep trace in my life, and I always try to improve myself, no matter how tired I may feel. It is impossible to live only in sport. I need to learn a lot, so that when I finish my sports career, I would have a chance to bring real benefits to the sport of athletics. This is my internal task and I formulated it thanks to the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy.
On October 1, Lebedeva was elected as one Vice President of All Russia Athletic Federation. She became the head of the new committee maintaining connections with the athletes.
“My task will be the discussion with athletes their vital issues, taking fresh ideas from them and submitting to the Federation.”
She promised to tell us in the nearest future about her new work, athletes’ problems, ideas and questions discussed at the first sitting of the committee and her working plans as the Vice President an the head of the new committee.
Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF