Olga Kaniskina (101) and Tatyana Shemyakina (111) wins the 20km Race Walk (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kaniskina given an apartment after Osaka victory, now seeks Beijing rewards

Russia’s Olga Kaniskina, 22, the world 20km race walk champion and winner of last weekend’s IAAF Race Walking Challenge final in her home town of Saransk, already has her eyes firmly set on the Beijing Olympic Games next year.

“I have got all reasons to be satisfied with my performances this season. I won the World Championship in Osaka and IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final, and I am quite happy with my result (1:26:47) in Saransk,” said Olga Kaniskina after setting her world-leading time at the final.

In Saransk, did you set out to beat the world record of your Russian compatriot Olimpiada Ivanova (1:25:41)?     

“From the start I lead together with my team-mates Anisya Kornikova and Tatyana Shemyakina,” confirmed Kaniskina. “Tatyana received two warnings which made her slow down. From the very beginning it was clear that the main competition will be between me and Anisya Kornikova. She was very well prepared. I did not break away from Kornikova after the 16th km mark as it could seem. She simply got two warnings and had to slow down and I slowed my pace too.”

“The competition was strong and could be even stronger if it were not for the warnings from the judges. Nobody wanted to lose. Nothing held me back. I could probably walk faster but it did not make sense. I did not even think about beating the World record. I just wanted to make my relatives, friends, and fans happy. I felt their support every minute.”

Was it harder to win in front of your home town than in Osaka?

“It is always harder to compete before the eyes of the people in the home town, many of which I know personally, who are my friends and relatives. Besides, the competition in Saransk was tougher than in Osaka. No wonder that Saransk, the capital of Republic of Mordovia (a part of Russian Federation) is called the race-walking capital of the world.”

“The Government created excellent conditions for different sports, especially in Saransk. Athletes can live and train in the facilities of the Centre of Olympic Training in Race Walking. In addition, a new sports complex with indoor track and field stadium and a wonderful race walking course in the park area were opened recently.”

Is the success of race walkers from Mordovia due to excellent coaching?

“The help and support of my coach plays the most important role in all my successful performances. He helps me to concentrate at the start and it works for me all through the race to the finish line. I shall never forget what he has done for me. In my opinion, the success of all Mordovian race-walkers would have not been possible without the guidance of highly qualified team of coaches.

We hear there were generous national rewards given to Osaka winners?

“After the success of the athletes from Mordovia in Osaka the head of the Mordovian Government Nikolay Merkushkin decided to reward the prize winners. I got a two-bedroom apartment for winning the championship title and second place winners Tatyana Shemyakina (20km Race Walk) and Darya Pischalnikova (Discus Throw) – got a one-bedroom apartment each.”

“Now we are looking forward to moving in at the end of this season and inviting friends to house-warming parties. Darya is my best friend since 2005. When I can cut out some free-time from my tight training schedule and meet with my friends I feel really happy and relaxed.”

What do you do in your free time?

“I wish I had more freetime for leisure. I like reading very much, especially old French authors. I am also the third year student of Mathematics Faculty in the State University of Mordovia. Now I have got some arrears (fallen behind in her studies) and need to devote more time to learning.”

Who will be your main rivals at the Olympic Games in Beijing?

“There is one competition left in 2007 - the Championship of Mordovia in race walking, which is going to stage strong competition. I hope I shall have a chance to go on a short leave before it and relax, may be in the country, at my grandma’s.”

“The Olympic trials will come next, which I hope to get through successfully with minimal effort. I cannot predict who is going to be my main rival in Beijing. All athletes train hard and arrive at such competitions at their best. So the surprise can come from anyone.”

Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF