Ananya Garikipati began doing rhythmic gymnastics at the age of nine, following a video from Olympic champion Evgenia Kanaeva on social networks , she is now the only representative of this sport from India. In an interview with Sport, the gymnast told how Irina Viner invited her to train with the Russian national team, why Moscow attracts her, and what difficulties an athlete from a country far from rhythmic gymnastics faces every day.
“Me name is Anania, I love Russia”
— Anania, how are you?
— Almost a week has passed since I learned about Irina Alexandrovna’s invitation (Wiener) to train with the Russian team. I'm still trying to process this. To be honest, I can't believe this is actually happening. This is everything I've dreamed of since I was nine. I can't wait to train under her guidance!
— Not yet, but it should happen soon. We are still discussing the dates and schedule of my training so that I can come to Russia. But I will definitely do it.
Until now, I have only seen her on TV and on YouTube together with the Russian team at various championships. But I remember my first impression of her: I thought that Wiener was the queen of champions. I am in awe of her immense love and undying dedication to the sport. Not everyone can devote their whole life to this.
— By the way, is Irina Viner widely known in India?
— Yes, she is quite famous in the community of rhythmic gymnastics fans . I think everyone would like to meet Irina Alexandrovna. A few seconds spent with her would be a pleasure for anyone.
— Moving on to pressing problems. How do you feel about the fact that Russian gymnasts cannot perform at the international level?
– It's sad, I miss them very much. Now the difference between competitions with Russians and without them is extremely noticeable, their absence did not go unnoticed. But it should be noted that the competitive environment in Russia is at the same level. Excellent technical level. Russian gymnasts continue to train as hard as before the sanctions, and no one can stop their love for the sport.
— Competitions in Russia are very different from other international tournaments?
– Yes, definitely! Productivity levels in Russia are very high. All the competitions here are so elite. Additionally, the work ethic and sportsmanship that Russian gymnasts possess are highly regarded. I like competing in Russia. This makes it possible to get acquainted with such sports exercises that can only be seen at the main competitions.
— You have been taking part in competitions in Russia for five years now. Do you remember when you came here for the first time?
—I remember very well. When I first arrived, Russian gymnasts scared me. Their level of preparation and the amount of time and effort they put in is commendable. And at that moment I still felt at home here. A very pleasant experience.
— Were there any concerns before coming to Russia, given the international situation?
– No, absolutely none. I like to be here, but so far I have only visited two cities: Moscow and Yekaterinburg. I love the capital very much: this city is so rich in its culture that I am always impressed. Red Square is simply beautiful! Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to get to know the city better, but I will definitely fix that.
— They say that Russian people are very gloomy.
—What Russian dish do you remember most? ?
— I tried one sweet dish – it was marshmallows in sugar glaze with filling inside. It's a rather sweet dessert for my taste, so I only ate a piece. Since my mother is a doctor, she advises me about my diet. However, I don't like unhealthy foods like sweets and processed foods, so this works in my favor.
— Do you know any Russian words?< br>
– Yes! “My name is Anania, I'm 20 years old. I love Russia!” To be honest, I'm pretty good at languages. I can read, write in Russian and even speak it a little. I hope to speak fluently soon.
“I was destined for rhythmic gymnastics”
—What is it like to be the first gymnast from India?
— I feel a great sense of responsibility and pride that I can represent my country. The fact that I am the first to do this brings special emotions. At the same time, I don’t feel any special pressure, rather an immensely elated mood.
— Why did you choose this particular sport?
— I think sport chose me. I feel peace when I exercise. When I step on the carpet, it’s absolute calm. As you know, this sport is not very famous in India, but I still found my way. It makes me think I was destined for rhythmic gymnastics. I've never felt more like I belonged anywhere else.
— Do you feel the same calm when competing?
— To be honest, I was never very worried before tournaments. And I never set a goal to compete in order to be better than someone. I don't care about places. It is much more valuable to me to be better than myself in the past. I've always viewed it as “self-competition.” The main goal is to do my best and have fun. And I get the greatest pleasure from the audience.
—You talk about gymnastics with such trepidation. What does it mean to you?
“I don’t think words will ever be able to describe what gymnastics means to me.” I just can't imagine my life without her. I have always lived by the principle: “Do what makes you happy, and do it now.” Rhythmic gymnastics helps him follow it.
— At what age did you start doing rhythmic gymnastics?
– I was nine. But at that moment I did everything on my own. At that time, Evgenia Kanaeva won her second Olympic gold medal (2012 – ed.). She was all over YouTube! And I was so admired by her and her determination in sports that I also wanted to be involved in it. I also learned some basics from Alina Kabaeva: there were videos on YouTube about how she teaches how to handle objects. I still remember how I tried to learn how to roll a ball in my hands while watching her lesson. Later, in 2016, when I was 12, my mother took me to London, where I received proper training. My first coach was Nazmi Johnston, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion from Australia.
— Are there really no special sports centers in India where gymnasts could train?
— There are a few, but they are definitely not enough. Unfortunately, they are either difficult to access or do not have the proper equipment. The lack of sports equipment and the uncertainty of the competition schedule causes inconvenience. Not many tournaments take place here. Hardly once or twice a year, this is absolutely not enough. There is also a shortage of professional trainers with good technical training.
— Internship in London, invitation to Moscow. Have you thought about moving from India to another country to have more comfortable conditions for training?
– Certainly. I remember asking my mother to take me to train in Moscow when I was very little. But moving from country to country was not very practical, since I have a younger sister who plays tennis.
—Then tell us how it goes your daily workouts in India.
— I train every day after university, and on weekends I devote the whole day to it. I'm always in the gym, and if I can't get there, I train at home. I don’t think you’ll ever catch me without objects in my hands, I’m always with them. I train myself, my mother also helps. By profession, my mother is an ophthalmic surgeon, but she studied and passed the exam to become a judge of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in order to help me.
br>—You have already mentioned your mother more than once. Did she immediately accept your passion for rhythmic gymnastics?
— At first, my parents were quite alarmed, because I am the first athlete in my family on both the maternal and paternal side. We had a lot of engineers and doctors, but not athletes. When I was nine years old, my mother decided: “Okay, we'll try it.” Since then, she has been my biggest support!
— Does the state support its gymnasts?
— This is not entirely true. All these years, my parents have been investing in sports, they financed everything – from training to tights. I buy my own suits every time I’m in Moscow, there’s a wide selection here. But I also tried to sew a few myself. Although, I admit, I still need to master this skill.
I also create my own programs and even edit the music myself.
“I want to be happy and not regret anything”
— Tell us who you are studying to be?
– Well, this is interesting. If it were up to me, I would prefer to play sports full time. But given factors such as uncertainty and life after a sports career, my parents wanted me to get a higher education. I could have chosen a simpler department, but I decided to do what I am good at. I always liked maths and science at school, so I decided to study digital engineering.
— Is it difficult to combine university studies with daily training?
– It's definitely possible. At school it was quite easy, but the higher the level of study, the more difficult it became. In fact, the education system in India is not suitable for professional sports, plus the department that I chose is also very difficult academically.
— I need a break from training and studying. How do you spend your leisure time?
— I am a very creative person. I like to design clothes; as I already said, I tried to sew my own costumes for performances several times. I also sew clothes for myself.
I also like to dance and swim. Probably, if it weren’t for gymnastics, I would have been doing swimming.
— How do friends feel about gymnastics?
— They have always been intrigued by this sport. For them this is very new and unusual, and also difficult. Whenever my friends come to visit me, they try to play with objects. It's great to watch them try.
Have you ever been compared to Zahri Lari, who is the first female figure skater from the UAE?
– I do not know this. But it’s very cool to be the first figure skater from the UAE, I’m proud of her. Maybe one day, like her, I will open my own academy. Now she is focused on building her own career. But after completion, I would definitely open rhythmic gymnastics centers to popularize and improve this sport in the country. It is very important for me to inspire other girls to do rhythmic gymnastics. I was once a young girl desperately trying to find inspiration and support, so I would like to be that way for the future generation.
— At what age do you plan to take up gymnastics?
— What would you wish for yourself in ten years?
— Good health and even greater health success. I want to be happy and content, and not regret anything. I don’t know where this sport will take me in the next ten years, but I am sure that it will benefit me.