ELVIRA KARIMOVA – To Achieve Something You Have to Work on It
Despite her young age, Elvira Karimova, member of Junior National and Russia National U21 Team and Zlatoust Uralochka, is one of the most titled water polo players. She is not only a repeated Russian Champion, but also a World and European Youth Champion. However, 18-year-old Zlatoust athlete, regardless of her achievements, believes it is only a start of her competitive career. To achieve something even bigger, Elvira says, she will have to work hard every day. Probably this very incredible endurance is what makes petite, according to the water polo standards, Elvira Karimova the biggest trouble for her opponents.
Q: Why did you decide to go in for sports and start practicing water polo in particular?
A: I really wanted to learn to swim; I always enjoyed it for some reason. That is how I ended up in the swimming pool. First, I did not even realize it was water polo I was training for with the team. I thought we were just swimming. Then, as I grew up a little and we started playing, it finally got to me what it was about. So, I began practicing water polo. I still remember how on my first day at the pool they asked me, “Do you want to learn to swim or just play in the water?” and I said I definitely wanted to swim. That is how I became a water polo player.
Q: How old were you back then?
A: I was 9, by the time I turned 10 we started to really train for water polo. When I was 13 or 14 I realized it was not something I did just for fun, it was a real professional job. That is when we entered our first competitions and I felt my responsibility and a desire to develop my skills and move forward…
Q: Was it hard to first practice with the ball?
A: It was not just the ball! We had to swim head-up, breast stroke for legs, crawl for arms – that’s what was very hard for me. I did not understand it all. Then they gave us a ball and we had our first game training… I was sent off, but I didn’t know why. Everyone was mad at me… So, with the time I understood what to do and what not to do in the game, where to swim, how to pass the ball and how to hit it.
Q: Do you remember the first competition you won?
A: Of course, I do. The first big event, on the whole, was 2007 Spartakiad. We ended up second, girls were very upset, some cried; and I was the youngest, I did not completely realize the meaning of that competition. We won our first victory a little bit later. We became Russian Champions. I scored three goals; I distinctively remember my two goals to the team of Nizhny Novgorod.
Q: What is your most vivid recollection?
A: Definitely 2009 World Youth Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk! Our national team has become a world Champion for the first time and it was in Russia…These were some lively and extremely emotional moments. Then, there’s European Championships where we knew exactly what was going on and how we had to play to win. I wanted to us become Champions so much – it was the first European Championships for me and for some other girls, too. And we did make all of our dreams come true.
Q: After you won World Championship, did you ever feel that may be you could then relax a little? May be play half-steam with the weaker opponent and skimp training?
A: No, I never thought about it. Those team members have grown up already, not everybody played for the national team. Though, somebody might have thought about it. May be, the feeling of us being superior to others was the reason why we did not win any medals at last year’s Championships in Italy. In Khanty-Mansiysk we had quite a different spirit. Every member of that team wanted to win. Every game was like a battle we fought with sparkling eyes!
Q: Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel like you don’t want to train today? What do you do then?
A: Yes, it happens sometimes (laughs). But then you think about the consequences and all these feelings disappear! It is always better to train in good mood; otherwise there’ll be no use in it and you will simply destroy everyone else’s spirit.
Q: Did you ever regret your choice to be in sport?
A: No, and I never did. Any way you slice it – it has only bright sides. Thanks to sport we have already been to so many countries. Would I have a chance to see the world like I did if I’d chosen something else?! And if I quit…Where would I ever turn to? I have always loved what I do. So, I don’t even think about it.
Q: You train every morning and every evening. Do you have enough time for something else except water polo?
A: Sometimes… Most of the times I just want to fall asleep after training, but I could easily miss my entire life like that! (laughs) I still have to study and some private life. It is very hard, though, to combine school and sport. It is always school and training, training and school, so, after just two or three days you don’t feel like anything else! I always have “debts” – credits, exams and tests which I pass together with the other girls in the break between competitions.
Q: Do you ever get bored with one another? You are together almost all the time; do you get tired of the same people?
A: Well, you might get tired of some people… But there’s somebody you go out with even after spending a whole day training together. Sometimes I think to myself “I am so tired of all of them!” Then, we don’t meet just for a day, but it feels like it’s been forever! In fact, we are always happy to see each other, because we’ve been together since childhood, we already are like a family.
Q: Do you have some goal or may be a dream?
A: Sure, there’s a lot of thing I’d love! Winning the Olympic Games, for example. I think, every athlete dreams about it, as in sports it is the greatest achievement. I also have some personal goals which I hope I will be able reach.
Q: Does sport teach you to get what you want?
A: It does that too. Sport makes a person more organized and disciplined, teaches to focus on one specific goal. We differ a lot from the girls our age. It’s as if they are still children… They might be 17-18 years old, but they have no idea what it’s like to be independent and to have a job. Feel like we know more about life already… We are more self-reliant, we understand we need to work to achieve something. It is a completely different attitude to life.
Q: In September you will again take part in the European Junior Water Polo Championships. What do you think is our team’s strength?
A: This team consists of the best player our country has to offer. We will be strong if we show the perfect team work where everybody supports one another. And more important, there has to be a desire to play, not just to come and perform somehow.