Vlada Nikolchenko (UKR): “It is very important for us to feel the spirit of top-level competition again”

With just 3 weeks to go until the Rhythmic Europeans kick off in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, we spoke with the host country’s latest star, 2019 European bronze medallist with clubs, Vlada Nikolchenko!

When did you start training in rhythmic gymnastics?

My parents brought me to the gym when I was 5. I was a highly active child, so they had to take me somewhere. The parents decided to take me to gymnastics, try it for a start, to see if I like it or not.


Have you done other sports?

Professionally, no. I tried equestrian sports as an amateur, and it remained at the amateur level.
In gymnastics I have always been more professional.


When did you realize that you had potential to reach the highest level?

Everything began to take shape for me when I was already in the national team. It was my first year when I performed for a seniors, in 2018, and after I started winning and bringing new medals: world cups, grand prix – from that moment I started really believed in myself,  that I can reach the highest level and that is definitely mine.


How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your training?

It was very difficult both physically and emotionally. Everything stops at one single moment: all competitions, all events, our whole life abruptly stopped. Usually we were training and preparing for the competitions, everything went in its usual way and when in one moment it all stopped. It was really hard. We train, but what are we training for? But then we got used to it somehow, began to train, went to a training camp this summer, began to gain performance form and started preparing for the competitions. Thank God, we managed to hold the Deriugina Cup [in September], thanks to Irina Ivanovna Deriugina.


How did you stay motivated? How were you supported?

At first, we were told that the Сup is going to be held in June. So, when everything was closed in March, we had 3 months to prepare for the competition. In June, nothing really changed with the coronavirus; the situation in the country remained difficult. Yes, some things were allowed, it wasn't all that bad, we didn't stay at home all the time, but it was still hard.

We were motivated by the coming competitions, new goals. Now we are slowly getting out. The competitions begin so it is much easier, we have already got into the rhythm: 2 Ukrainian Championships and the Deriugina Cup have already taken place. At the moment, we are intensively preparing for the main start of this year – the European Championships, which is only the beginning of our new path to the next Olympic Games. It is very important for us to feel the spirit of top-level competition again.


What are your predictions for these European Championships?

This is unpredictable. But we believe that everything will work out, despite all the hard times and the latest news. In Europe, at one time it is canceled, at another time it is not; some teams have withdrawn, because countries do not allow departures. We hope that we manage to hold it.

And the results this time, I think, will be absolutely unpredictable. The gymnasts around the world haven't seen each other for literally a year because of the lack of competitions. The last time everyone performed, I mean that everyone was there – that was at the World Championship a year ago, in September. And, of course, it will be interesting to see who has improved and who has slowed down.


Who is your favorite gymnast / athlete?

I'm not inspired by some definite person – it is not for me because I understand that there is no ideal person or athlete.  But I try to adopt the best features from everyone. 


What are your hobbies?

I guess I don’t have any, because there is not enough time at all. There is one single day off on Sunday and even this day sometimes become a working day because of preparations for some kind of competition, so it is difficult with hobbies. Usually on my day off I want to relax and have some time for myself.


What would you like to still achieve in your sports career? And in life?

In sports, this is, probably, just like for all athletes, the Olympic Games. Medals at the Olympic Games.

In general, it is hard to guess or to say – right now I am studying to be a coach, but actually I guess this is somehow not for me for the moment. I don’t have the patience to explain something to children, but perhaps this is just for now and in future I don’t exclude the possibility of working as a coach.


Do you feel the support of the fans? How can they show their support to you?

Many of our fans wrote us and supported us when the quarantine began and when everyone was at home. Fan groups asked us to shoot some small videos as an inspiration and support for children who don’t train and stay at home.

More messages we received during and after the competitions, especially when we are somewhere abroad. Usually with the ending of competitions we have new acquaintances and subscribers.  Someone is already familiar with you, with this sport, with gymnasts. And someone came for the first time and it is a “wow” for them, because something new is being held in the city; it is always interesting to look at gymnasts and many people are attracted by this.

In addition, on Instagram, the kids even create pages, some Vlada Nikolchenko’s fan pages. There are so many groups of this kind. Someone is crazy about it so much that even comes to competitions. I know a girl from Brazil with whom I keep in touch very closely. She even managed to persuade her parents to fly to us for the World Championships in Baku. She also has my fan page on Instagram; there are about 30 thousand subscribers there.  I think it’s even more than I have. She is so active and we really get on very well.

If we talk about Ukraine as a whole, then the support of the fans of our entire national team is significantly noticeable: this can be seen on social networks and the Telegram channel of the national team. In Ukraine interest for rhythmic gymnastics never subsides.

It is a great honor for our country to host the European Championships. And even in the absence of the spectators in the stands, we will feel the support of the whole country at the television screens, while performing in our native land, on the home ground.


Thanks Vlada! Best of luck in Kyiv!

November 5, 2020

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