Article title in Russian
Dina Kochetkova:
I Did Not Play With Dolls In Childhood

Sovetskiy Sport, March 1998
Conducted by Olga Alekseyeva
Translated by Vladimir Gurov

It just so happened that our entire Atlanta silver medal women's gymnastics team gathered in one place at one time - in the Moscow sports complex Olimpiyskiy during the traditional tournament Stars of the World.

Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Dolgopolova, and Yevgeniya Kuznetsova shined on the podium. Roza Galiyeva judged the events while Oksana Lyapina, limping after another surgery, Yelena Grosheva, now competing in aerobics, and Dina Kochetkova, a student at St. Petersburg P. F. Lesgaft Physical Culture Institute, watched their friends' performances from the stands.

I asked Dina Kochetkova, the Merited Master of Sport and World champion on floor in 1993 and on beam in 1996, to answer a few questions during the break.

Dina Kochetkova

-- Dina, how are you? How did you spend all of this year and a half since Atlanta?

Rehabilitating after two knee surgeries. I had almost recovered from the first operation, but unfortunately six months later I had to undergo another one.

-- Do you think that if not for the injury you still could have fought for a place on the national team and for the medals at the National Championships?

I think yes. I will be only 21 on July 27th [1998]. If a sportswoman is in good shape, this time may become a real highlight in her career since she has experience and her name is widely-known. Especially today, when there are many competitions where some gymnasts compete in one or two events only. After all, Svetlana Boginskaya is a good example.

-- Do you want to be back on the podium?

I would like to. Actually, I am not ready now to leave the team and retire from gymnastics. I started to train a little, and if not on all four apparatus then at least on beam and bars I can compete well against the younger girls. I was inspired by the participation of all-around '88 Olympic champion Yelena Shushunova, and all-around World champion in '81 and '85 Yuriy Korolyov in Novgorod the Great tournament. It would be interesting to compete with such great athletes!

-- Here in Olimpiyskiy during the Stars of the World tournament and the Russian National Championships one could spot many famous gymnasts in the audience. Did you get a chance to meet someone you have not seen in a long time?

Yes. There were so many familiar faces among the competitors, judges, and the audience! Just recently I talked to Oksana Fabrichnova. We trained together a few years ago, and now she works at a circus. I got a chance to talk to all the girls from our Olympic team. It is a pity that we rarely see each other. Those days in Atlanta were the most memorable ones for all of us!

-- Were you upset when the team lost the gold to the Americans?

We came to Atlanta for medals. For what kind? I guess for bronze. But when after the compulsories we realized that we could become the Olympic champions, the silver started to seem almost like a failure! Later, after a few days, when we looked back objectively we realized that we accomplished the impossible - beat the Romanians, Chinese, Ukrainians, together with the all-around Olympic champion Liliya Podkopayeva, and lost only to the hosts of the Games. It was a great achievement after the failure at the 1995 World Championships where we were only in fourth place.

-- In your opinion, is Svetlana Khorkina in good shape? Does she have good chances to become the European champion?

Sveta is the best! She is a real sportswoman, I would even say a real champion, who can gather all her will when needed.

-- Let's talk about you. How did your life in gymnastics start?

Several coaches came to my kindergarten to select girls to the group. As I recall, I was taken from the sandbox, muddy and uncombed, and brought to them. Later I cried that I would never do gymnastics but a few weeks after, to my parents' surprise, I yelled at them "Take me to practice, I want to the gym!" I was such an unbearable child. By the way, I have never even played with dolls like all nice, modest girls. I wanted toy cars, period!

-- Toy cars?

Yes, exactly. I was also very restless at practice - nobody could make me start training until I finished talking to all of my teammates! I guess only after I grew up I had to become more serious or I would have never seen Atlanta.

-- What is your attitude to cars today? Do you have one of your own?

Not yet. I spent all my savings to buy an apartment, but with time I will definitely get a car. I am not afraid to drive. I drove only twice but liked it tremendously. I am only afraid of bad drivers. It is not a problem today to buy a [fake] driver's license, so there are a lot of drunks and those who do not even know how to drive. Otherwise, I am not a coward. Maybe that is why my favorite apparatus is the beam - the most dangerous and treacherous one.

-- Who were your coaches?

I started gymnastics at the Locomotive club and when I turned eight I was transferred to TsSKA1 to train with Irina and Viktor Razumovskiys. Oh, what a strong group I trained with! I remember I looked at Olga Bicherova and Yelena Shevchenko as the "stars," but little by little I improved to advance to Krugloye. When the Razumovskiys moved to Japan, I started training with Leonid Yakovlevich Arkayev - he got me to the Olympics. Here, at Stars of the World I said, "Hi" to him and he replied, "I miss you." I too miss the team and Krugloye very much. It is nice to be at home but gymnastics is our life! If I had a personal coach I could probably recuperate and prepare a program. After all, every athlete should be approached individually. Sveta Khorkina lucked out. I am sure that after the Olympics and the World Championships in Lausanne her coach Boris Vasil'yevich Pilkin received multiple offers to come work abroad. But he does not want to leave Sveta. He believes he must coach her to the end of her gymnastics career.

-- Were you invited to work in the USA, Europe?

I have not received such offers yet. Actually, I would not want to leave my country for long, unless my family came with me. Still, you cannot take all your friends with you. Life is getting better in Russia today and I am sure our gymnastics will develop further.

-- What do you think about the discussion on changing the competitive age to 18 at 2004 Olympic Games?

Eighteen years? It is too much. I think 16 is enough. I know all this is about returning grace and femininity to gymnastics and also not imposing the young bodies to heavy loads of training. At times I look at 14-15 year old girls' programs and they do everything flawlessly but without inspiration or emotions, just simply automatically. It is especially visible on beam and floor.

-- Dina, you are a Muscovite. How did it happen that you study in St. Petersburg?

I met once with Raisa Nikolayevna Terekhina, professor at Lesgaft Institute. She was telling me with great inspiration about this school, the athletes who study there, and the teachers! So I decided to go to take a look and liked it. Now, I am already a sophomore.

-- The European Championships will be in St. Petersburg, will you have a chance to be at the tournament?

Yes, I will have final exams a week before the competition and then will stay to cheer for our team. So, I will see you in St. Petersburg!

1 TsSKA (or CSKA) = Tsentral'nyi Sportivnyi Klub Armii (Central Sports Army Club)

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