Svetlana Romashina: ‘I want to come back and I can do it’

Svetlana Romashina, five-time Olympic champion and one of the most decorated synchronized swimmer in history, announced her return to elite back in September after a two-years hiatus. During that time, she gave birth to her daughter and enjoyed multiple opportunities.

Shortly after making that announcement, Romashina did this interview with Team Russia where she talks about her daughter, her decision to start synchro again and her goals moving forward.

Back to the swimming pool a month after having a baby 

Q: When did you finally decide to return to the sport and did you have any doubts about it?

A: I still have some doubts. But in August I came to the conclusion: I want to come back and I can do it. The most important thing was to figure out how to leave the baby at home. After my daughter’s birth, my priorities in life changed. It was necessary to organize everything and  in particular to find a nanny for Alexandra. When this issue was resolved, I fully realized that I was able to combine training and maternal duties.

Q: Fencing athlete Sofya Velikaya had a child at the end of October last year, and brought him to the Russian Championships in Smolensk in April. She left the fencing piste for feeding only. What are you supposed to do?

A: We have different cases. Sofya had a baby a little bit earlier (Three weeks earlier.  Note: Team Russia) and very quickly returned to the sport. In two months, my daughter will be already one year old; she is learning to walk and eat on her own, so I’m not going to take her with me. Sasha will stay with a nanny, her grandmothers and dad. Everyone supports me, everyone is ready to help and they are determined.

Q: During your pause in competitive practice, you visited the pool sometimes, didn’t you? For example to give synchro clinics.

A: I went into the water for the first time a month after the birth of my child by taking part in the Olympic champions show. It was a kind of challenge. I really wanted to feel the water again and dive back into the world of synchronized swimming. Then, there was no time for anything but the care for my daughter.

The next time I went to the pool was in Kaliningrad, where we organized a clinic with Natalia Ishchenko in the beginning of June. Later at the end of June, another clinic was held in Kazan. Between these, I didn’t practice. The baby took all my free time and all my strength. Sometimes she slept badly at night, so during the day when she would fall asleep, I’d try to take a nap.

At the end of July and beginning of August, I went to international camps in Italy and in Mallorca in Spain, where I was able to share some of my experience. There, I constantly entered the water clearly realizing that my head knows and my body remembers. Then, I realized that I was still capable of doing something, and most importantly that I wanted it.

ISCHENKO’S EXAMPLE HAS INSPIRED ME

Q: Did the organizers invite you to the camps?

A: Yes. The camp in Mallorca was organized by Spanish synchronized swimmer Andrea Fuentes, four-time medalist (three-time silver and one bronze) at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. When I receive an invitation, I always talk to the coaches. The Spanish used to be our main rivals in the recent past, so not all secrets are worth giving out.

Meanwhile in both camps, a very friendly atmosphere reigned. Moreover, many coaches who were present there supported me and were saying: “Svetlana, you can do it, you will still have success!” It also impacted me.

Q: You were probably inspired by the example of Natalia Ischenko, who got back to the sport ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio and won two gold medals?

A: You can say so. But above all, her example is an extra help for me. Natasha became a pioneer, and it will probably be easier for me to follow her footsteps. Moreover, our children were born with a difference of exactly four years: hers on November 3rd, and I had mine on the 4th. So I can call Natasha and ask her about the maternal duties or training schedule. I’m sure she won’t refuse to give a good advice.

Q: How do you practice now?

A: So far, mostly on my own. Today is my fourth day. Tatiana Danchenko (head coach of the Russian national team, who specializes in working with duets and soloists. Note: Team Russia) was present on the poolside and said that everything is not so bad. It was two years without training, and my shape seems to not be so bad. This fact inspired me even more.

Also I have the time to get back into a routine. My partner Svetlana Kolesnichenko, who had a rather difficult season, will be back from vacation in a month. After that, we will work together. Apparently, we are going to do the same thing with the solos than we did four years ago when Ischenko returned: one of us will prepare a technical program, the other a free program (at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Romashina won gold in the former, Ischenko in the latter. Note: Team Russia).

Q: Let me ask you a tricky question: will you be in the duet with Kolesnichenko, despite the fact that this year she successfully performed with 17-year-old Varvara Subbotina?

A: When Natasha returned, there was a similar situation. At that time my partner was Sveta. Although, the coach is the one to decide whether an athlete returns to the duet or not. Subbotina is a young synchronized swimmer; she will compete for the spot in the team at the Olympic Games.

Q: Eventually, do you have your plans for Tokyo 2020?

A: If we look ahead in the long term, of course, my plans are associated with the Olympic Games. But first, I need to remember at the first meets what they actually feel like. We will perform at the world series, and in the summer, we have the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, ahead of us.

Translated by Vlada Sorokina.

Original author is Aleksander Prosvetov.

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