One of the main potential hopes of the Russian swimming team at the Olympic Games in Paris, Evgenia Chikunova, told in interview with Sports, why the admission conditions from World Aquatics are absurd, how long nails deprived her of a gold medal, how chips and soda do not interfere with sports and why she should not be compared with Yulia Efimova.
“No There is no jealousy towards Efimova”
– Feeling like a competition superstar after breaking the world record in the 200m breaststroke?
– I have become more popular, that’s for sure, but I don’t consider myself a superstar. I think that I swam very, very well and, of course, I hope to swim like that again. And maybe someday swim even faster. Maybe an Olympic medal will be more valuable because of the history of the Olympic Games, but breaking a world record is also very nice and cool. I consider Evgeny Rylov to be stars in swimming, because he really made history at the Olympics, and Kliment Kolesnikov. These two people are leading our team forward.
– It’s not a shame that after Efimova’s return we need to share the attention of the press and spectators with her?
– I don’t think that they forgot about me and that there is too much attention to her. Of course, it’s a sensation that she returned after a two-year break. This is a huge news feed, but there is no jealousy. If I were jealous of every athlete who gets attention, I don’t know if I would be swimming now? I'm just minding my own business.
– Is she an example for you that even at 30 years old you can show good results after a break?
– This is an excellent example of enormous willpower and incredible fighting qualities. I don’t know how my life will turn out next, I’m only 19 years old, but swimming until I’m 30 would be very cool. Julia is great, she found the strength to return to training, I understand how sometimes it’s hard to force yourself, for example, to go to the pool after a vacation.
Before Yulia took a break, in women’s breaststroke I was always either behind her or ahead of her. Then, when she went on break, I was considered Efimova’s successor, and I don’t particularly like this formulation, because I am a separate person. When she went on a long vacation, they started watching me more. I think that after her return this attention will increase, but I hope they will look not at me separately, but at our confrontation. I want people to be interested in watching swimming. I think Yulia and I will show the fight.
“I love lying down, eating chips, drinking soda and watching TV series”
– How build the perfect body for competition? For example, in gymnastics, nutrition is very strict; buns are out of the question. Are you limiting yourself in any way?
– I rather have restrictions not in food, but in weight. I know my starting weight and I need to stick to it. There is no strict control, all responsibility is on me, because first of all, only I need the result and the coaches understand this. If I eat cake, I understand the consequences. We have a trusting relationship with Vitta Vladimirovna (Novozhilova – ed.). After the vacation, of course, I gained three kilograms, but I lost weight and am now approximately at my starting weight. To be honest, I eat whatever I like. I love lying down, watching TV series and eating chips. This is just my guilty pleasure. I'll be honest, but I often lie like this with a soda. I really like to eat fast food. I try to eat right and rarely allow myself cheat meals, but I don’t particularly limit myself, so I don’t have any breakdowns. When she broke the world record, she celebrated it with dinner at Tasty, Period.
– Do any disruptions occur in the female body due to heavy stress?
– I don’t have one. I have a good connection with my coach and there are no moments when I overwork, we always proceed from my well-being.
– Does your skin and hair suffer from constant exposure to bleach? These factors are especially important for us girls.
– Yes, I understand that. Especially at competitions, it happens that you first swim in one pool, then in another, they have different chlorine, in some pools it really dries your skin terribly. You have to buy creams, apply them, moisturize everything.
– Is it possible to get a beautiful manicure when you are a professional swimmer?
– I’ve had my nails done many times, I love long nails. But after Abu Dhabi, my coaches and I decided that it was probably better not to have long nails for competitions, because I lost the touch. My fingers did not go straight, but curved upward, and then I lost 0.04 seconds. There, from the recording, it was clear that it was the fingers.
– Rylov said that he could not stand on skates, since swimmers have unstable ankles. What about heels? Do you often wear high heels?
– I'm trying, but it's hard. When I was at the Olympic Day in St. Petersburg, I was very tired. It was immediately the day after Scarlet Sails, and I slept for three hours that day. Somehow I got up, put on some makeup and put on my heels. I was sure that I could handle this, no matter how much pain. Everything started well, but ended badly. Everyone who saw me from the Olympic committee persuaded me to take off my shoes and go barefoot, it was clear that it was difficult for me, my gait had already changed, I could barely drag myself there, I tried, my legs hurt terribly, but I wanted to walk this path with dignity. It all ended with numerous blisters. Girls, wear your ankle boots, don’t make my mistakes!
– Is it possible to be a weak and fragile girl outside of sports? Cry over melodrama, ask someone to open a bottle of water, although you yourself have enough strength for this?
– In fact, I can’t always open a bottle myself, I have weak hands. Of course, I can cry over melodrama. But I don’t like melodramas, because they make me cry, and even without films I have enough reasons for this. I mostly watch horror, that's my love. With friends I am who I am. I don’t think I’m really that strong in life, I often can’t call someone, answer a courier’s call – that’s all… It’s easier for me to write. There must be something fragile about it.
– Does professional sports interfere with building a personal life? When you are always at training camps, at competitions, is there a place for love?
– I think that sport does not interfere with personal life. All this can be easily combined. For some, it is even easier when there is a loved one nearby, this is support and help. The main thing is to have a head on your shoulders and everyone to understand the full responsibility on themselves as an athlete and a partner.
– In some federations there is a very trusting relationship with the heads, for example, in skiing Elena Vyalbe can be called a second mother. What is your relationship with Vladimir Valerievich Salnikov?
– He is probably more of a boss, but at the same time I know that I can calmly approach him for advice and he will not refuse. He is always for us, defends our interests, many see and appreciate this. We are very lucky that he comes from swimming, I think he is a good boss.
“In general, this whole declaration is absurd”
– You said at the press conference that the Friendship Games will be the main start of the next season. Are you no longer counting on going to the Olympics? The main start of the season will also be there.
– I will prepare and just look at the situation. The only thing I can say with confidence is that I will be ready for any competition that is offered and in which I can perform. Right now the focus is, of course, on the Friendship Games and the BRICS Games.
– A couple of months have passed since the approval from World Aquatics. Have you ever wanted to get neutral status and go to Doha for the World Championships? Girev received neutral status, for example.
– I read the documentation about obtaining neutral status, but didn’t think about it at all. I believe that this is dishonest, absolutely not what our athletes are ready to do.
– Does it seem absurd that Russian athletes were prohibited from communicating with the media at international competitions?
– I agree, in general this whole declaration is absurd, especially about the media. It is very strange. It seems that we are allowed through this neutral status, but we are not allowed to communicate with the media and are not allowed to do anything, as if we are not considered people. I do not support this.
– There are different opinions about the neutral status. In some federations, athletes calmly participate in the world championships, but, for example, the heads of the swimming and gymnastics federation speak very harshly, for example: “No one will go and wave a white rag.” Whose position is closer?
– I am for the fact that every athlete should make his own decision and take responsibility. If he takes into account all the risks and understands what he is agreeing to, then, of course, he can calmly go and perform. I'm not against it, I'm neutral in this regard. I myself would not want a neutral status, especially under such conditions. In Russia you can show decent results and break world records. In any case, the world is watching the results.
– What rituals do swimmers have before important starts? It's no secret that athletes are superstitious. Do I need to shave with a strictly new razor or should I not perform in a new hat?
– I myself am superstitious and don’t really like to think ahead, I try to act according to one plan that once worked. It will be funny, but, for example, I need to put on patches in the morning, apply my favorite perfume, put on a T-shirt. In general, I plan in advance what I will wear to the start, lie down and think about it before going to bed. I also plan my warm-up in advance, and in general I have everything planned down to the minute.